Remove That Target On Your Back

Backup administrators have traditionally been the go-to-person when something went wrong with a critical data backup or recovery process. And the primary person chasing them down during these unfortunate circumstances was their boss. One issue (hopefully!). One target. Problem (usually) solved. Well…..that’s no longer the case.


Today’s expansive data protection environments can (and should) contain not only backup solutions but also replication and availability components. These are required for time-critical protection scenarios, as well as archive for long-term retention. But that merely complicates the job of the data protection administrator (Congratulations on the new title!). He or she now has more components to constantly monitor and ensure are working as expected. And if that wasn’t tough enough, the shift toward software-defined data centers and offering data protection as a service –think offering internal IT services for each enterprise business unit or geo or department – potentially creates a list of new “bosses” who will chase you down when something goes awry with their data.

So, you may be thinking, with all these components, how do I regain visibility and control of the data protection environment? How do I prove service levels to all stake holders? And how do I do this without hiring a team of IT administrators to monitor each and every component?

Don’t worry. There’s a solution.

A few years ago some very bright people saw this growing wave of data and the need to protect it. And they also foresaw the inability of organizations to scale resources as fast as data (and resulting backup) growth. Their answer: develop a data protection management solution, such as EMC’s Data Protection Advisor, to unify monitoring of the entire environment continuum. Think about data protection management (DPM) as an always-on 24×7 watchdog. It sees all, knows all and tells all about the data protection environment. Pretty nifty tool to have, unless you’d like to keep working those 80+ hour weeks.


As data protection becomes increasingly defined by software, you should expect a DPM solution to support related services offerings. In other words, a DPM solution should enable data protection as a service for multiple tenant workloads, whether for public, private or hybrid clouds. What about providing visibility and control for IT and consumers by enabling comprehensive monitoring, analysis and reporting in heterogeneous data protection environments. And, what about supporting Service Level Agreement (SLA) requirements for the entire data protection continuum mentioned earlier, which ranges from data archiving to real-time availability solutions.

So, you may ask, do DPM solutions actually provide all these capabilities? Yep – DPM solutions do all that….and more. And I see your next question forming: “What does this mean to me and my day-to-day activities”. Let’s start with a descriptive graphic.


Starting in the Observe quadrant, this continuous cycle enables IT and consumers of data protection services to monitor and have a unified view of their data protection infrastructure, as well as to track configuration changes. All too often I hear about a small change made to a server setting which isn’t communicated to the appropriate administrator managing the backup policies for that server…… I’ll get back to that in a minute.

Next is the Orient phase. Here is where users can measure their success against Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) and can monitor Service Level Agreements using DPM tools. In an ideal world all systems would be healthy all the time, service levels exceeded and performance beyond expectations. However, we don’t always live in that happy place and issues in the data protection environment pop up.

Remember that change made to a server that the administrator didn’t know about? A DPM solution will automatically detect and send an alert about the change and enable users to root cause the source of the problem. This is the Decide phase, in which the DPM solution also provides recommendations of potential fixes to return the situation back to an expected state.

Then we enter the Act stage, which is where recommendations from the DPM solution are actioned. Integration between the DPM solution and helpdesk software enables automated creation of service tickets. Administrators can also use feedback from the DPM solution to fine tune protection policies and service levels. And the cycle restarts, hopefully getting ever closer to data protection nirvana, which is the fully-automated policy-based data protection environment.

So, with that quick glimpse into DPM solutions, do you know if your data is adequately and properly protected? Are your internal and customer SLA’s being met? How about your RTOs and RPO’s?

If you’re not 100% confident your critical business data is protected and recoverable, or if you’re spending too much time, effort and money, watch (or better yet) try a new approach.

Otherwise, don’t look now but that target is still on your back.

About the Author: Tom Giuliano