Jan 242017

In 2013 I undertook the endeavour to revisit some of the topics from my first book, “Enterprise Systems Backup and Recovery: A Corporate Insurance Policy”, and expand it based on the changes that had happened in the industry since the publication of the original in 2008.

A lot had happened since that time. At the point I was writing my first book, deduplication was an emerging trend, but tape was still entrenched in the datacentre. While backup to disk was an increasingly common scenario, it was (for the most part) mainly used as a staging activity (“disk to disk to tape”), and backup to disk use was either dumb filesystems or Virtual Tape Libraries (VTL).

The Cloud, seemingly ubiquitous now, was still emerging. Many (myself included) struggled to see how the Cloud was any different from outsourcing with a bit of someone else’s hardware thrown in. Now, core tenets of Cloud computing that made it so popular (e.g., agility and scaleability) have been well and truly adopted as essential tenets of the modern datacentre, as well. Indeed, for on-premises IT to compete against Cloud, on-premises IT has increasingly focused on delivering a private-Cloud or hybrid-Cloud experience to their businesses.

When I started as a Unix System Administrator in 1996, at least in Australia, SANs were relatively new. In fact, I remember around 1998 or 1999 having a couple of sales executives from this company called EMC come in to talk about their Symmetrix arrays. At the time the datacentre I worked in was mostly DAS with a little JBOD and just the start of very, very basic SANs.

When I was writing my first book the pinnacle of storage performance was the 15,000 RPM drive, and flash memory storage was something you (primarily) used in digital cameras only, with storage capacities measured in the hundreds of megabytes more than gigabytes (or now, terabytes).

When the first book was published, x86 virtualisation was well and truly growing into the datacentre, but traditional Unix platforms were still heavily used. Their decline and fall started when Oracle acquired Sun and killed low-cost Unix, with Linux and Windows gaining the ascendency – with virtualisation a significant driving force by adding an economy of scale that couldn’t be found in the old model. (Ironically, it had been found in an older model – the mainframe. Guess what folks, mainframe won.)

When the first book was published, we were still thinking of silo-like infrastructure within IT. Networking, compute, storage, security and data protection all as seperate functions – separately administered functions. But business, having spent a decade or two hammering into IT the need for governance and process, became hamstrung by IT governance and process and needed things done faster, cheaper, more efficiently. Cloud was one approach – hyperconvergence in particular was another: switch to a more commodity, unit-based approach, using software to virtualise and automate everything.

Where are we now?

Cloud. Virtualisation. Big Data. Converged and hyperconverged systems. Automation everywhere (guess what? Unix system administrators won, too). The need to drive costs down – IT is no longer allowed to be a sunk cost for the business, but has to deliver innovation and for many businesses, profit too. Flash systems are now offering significantly more IOPs than a traditional array could – Dell EMC for instance can now drop a 5RU system into your datacentre capable of delivering 10,000,000+ IOPs. To achieve ten million IOPs on a traditional spinning-disk array you’d need … I don’t even want to think about how many disks, rack units, racks and kilowatts of power you’d need.

The old model of backup and recovery can’t cut it in the modern environment.

The old model of backup and recovery is dead. Sort of. It’s dead as a standalone topic. When we plan or think about data protection any more, we don’t have the luxury of thinking of backup and recovery alone. We need holistic data protection strategies and a whole-of-infrastructure approach to achieving data continuity.

And that, my friends, is where Data Protection: Ensuring Data Availability is born from. It’s not just backup and recovery any more. It’s not just replication and snapshots, or continuous data protection. It’s all the technology married with business awareness, data lifecycle management and the recognition that Professor Moody in Harry Potter was right, too: “constant vigilance!”

Data Protection: Ensuring Data Availability

This isn’t a book about just backup and recovery because that’s just not enough any more. You need other data protection functions deployed holistically with a business focus and an eye on data management in order to truly have an effective data protection strategy for your business.

To give you an idea of the topics I’m covering in this book, here’s the chapter list:

  1. Introduction
  2. Contextualizing Data Protection
  3. Data Lifecycle
  4. Elements of a Protection System
  5. IT Governance and Data Protection
  6. Monitoring and Reporting
  7. Business Continuity
  8. Data Discovery
  9. Continuous Availability and Replication
  10. Snapshots
  11. Backup and Recovery
  12. The Cloud
  13. Deduplication
  14. Protecting Virtual Infrastructure
  15. Big Data
  16. Data Storage Protection
  17. Tape
  18. Converged Infrastructure
  19. Data Protection Service Catalogues
  20. Holistic Data Protection Strategies
  21. Data Recovery
  22. Choosing Protection Infrastructure
  23. The Impact of Flash on Data Protection
  24. In Closing

There’s a lot there – you’ll see the first eight chapters are not about technology, and for a good reason: you must have a grasp on the other bits before you can start considering everything else, otherwise you’re just doing point-solutions, and eventually just doing point-solutions will cost you more in time, money and risk than they give you in return.

I’m pleased to say that Data Protection: Ensuring Data Availability is released next month. You can find out more and order direct from the publisher, CRC Press, or order from Amazon, too. I hope you find it enjoyable.

Apr 282011

We’ve reached the time where I suggest that if you’re a regular reader of this blog, you would likely find a great deal of value in buying and reading my book, Enterprise Systems Backup and Recovery: A Corporate Insurance Policy.

My book is not targeted for users of any technology X, or any business category Y – it’s about the processes, the people, the policies and considerations that have to be thought of and developed in order to have a successfully run backup system.

If you want a basic overview of what I’m talking about there, to whet your appetite, read “What is a backup system?“, a blog post I made in January. The diagram alone from that post should help you understand why I differentiate between backup products and backup systems:

Backup system

As you can see there – the technology is just a small fraction of what goes into a backup system – and so if you’re confident on the technology but you’re missing any of the other pieces mentioned, then you need to read my book.

But don’t just take my word for it – check out the reviews for the book on Amazon. The two most recent reviews are as follows:

Every business or organization should have an information insurance plan including data protection to prevent small day to day incidents from escalating into disasters.

A data protection insurance plan should also help business of all size continue operations during acts of nature, those caused by humans not to mention technology failures. Preston de Guise has written the definitive book from a practitioner perspective and a must read for anyone involved with protecting, preserving and service information systems.

The books flow and format is very well laid out appealing to different audiences from IT architects to those responsible for actually getting backup and restore accomplished in an efficient and effective manner. Don’t let the title of Backup and Recovery fool you, there is much more packed into this ranging from debunking common data protection myths to establishing a strategy in addition of what to do when. There is plenty of how to topics covered as well as the strategy or reasoning of what to do when as well as why.

If you are involved with IT systems particular servers, storage, cloud, virtualization or data protection, this book should be on your book shelf.

Cheers gs

Greg Schulz

IT Advisor and Author

(Greg is the author of “Resilient Storage Networks: Designing Flexible Scalable Data Infrastructures“, as well as “The Green and Virtual Data Center“, and runs the StorageIO Blog.)

From Carlos Leiva, the review was:

Este libro es excelente para aquellos que deseen aprender en detalle de la práctica de respaldos y recuperación, pues indica en forma simple los métodos y actividades que deben realizarse para establecer prácticas seguras y adecuadas en sus organizaciones. El contenido del libro permite establecer un marco de evaluación de las prácticas que se desarrollen en las organizaciones.

Which, when plugged into Google translate (since I’m terrible at non-computer languages), says:

This book is excellent for thosewish to to learn in detail about the practice of backup and recovery ,as shown in simple form the methods and activities to be carried out toestablish safe and appropriate practices in their organizations. The contents of thebook provides a framework for assessing the development practices in organizations.

So, there you have it. Don’t just take my word for it; after all, I’m the author and understandably biased. But with an average rating of 4.5 out of 5 stars on Amazon, and reviews like that – surely it’s worth checking out?

If you’re already sold, here’s a link to buy direct from Amazon.

Thanks for your time as a reader of the blog – and thanks for your support!

Oct 182010

Amazon are currently selling Enterprise Systems Backup and Recovery: A Corporate Insurance Policy at a reduced price.

If you’ve been wanting to buy it, but the price has previously put you off, this may be a good excuse to go back and revisit Amazon for it.

Remember if you do read it that reviews are always welcome!

Book Drive

 Backup theory  Comments Off on Book Drive
Mar 282010

Every now and then I like to remind people of my book, Enterprise Systems Backup and Recovery: A Corporate Insurance Policy. Recently I had someone contact me and say that not only did they find it an easy read, but they got hooked in the introduction with the volcanoes, so I’ll quote a short excerpt to explain:

Hundreds of years ago, primitive villagers would stand at the mouth of a volcano and throw an unfortunate individual into its gaping maw as a sacrifice. In return for this sacrifice, they felt they could be assured of anything from a safe pregnancy for the chief’s wife, a bountiful harvest, a decisive victory in a war against another tribe (who presumably had no volcano to throw anyone into), and protection from bad things.

Too many companies treat a backup system like those villagers did the volcano. They sacrifice tapes to the backup system in the hope that it guarantees protection. However, when treated this way, backups offer about as much protection as the volcano that receives the sacrifice. Sacrifices to volcanoes were seen as a guarantee of protection. Similarly, backups are often seen as a guarantee of protection, even when they’re not configured or treated properly. In particular, there is a misconception that is something which is called “backup software” is installed, then a backup system has been installed.

Installing backup software is easy. Installing backup hardware is easy. Meshing the humans, the company divisions, the software and the hardware isn’t so easy. You can choose the sci fi route and try to assimilate the people, company divisions, software and hardware all into some weird cyborg collective – this might be efficient, but it would certainly be the peak of corporate dehumanizing, and perhaps should be avoided.

Or you can do the hard but ultimately fulfilling option of coming up with the policies, the procedures, the service level agreements, and the system maps. Coming up with these can be a bit of a hard slog – regardless of whether you’re a manager or an IT administrator, you’ll be asking (and having to answer) some difficult questions, and it’s imperative that the business be coached into understanding that backup and recovery is not an IT function, but something that IT merely facilitates.

If you want help with reaching that goal, that’s where Enterprise Systems Backup and Recovery: A corporate insurance policy will help you most.

Dec 112009

As it approaches that time for giving, it’s worth pointing out that with just a simple purchase, you can simultaneously give yourself and me a present. I’m assuming regular readers of the blog would like to thank me, and the best thanks I could get this year would be to get a nice spike in sales in my book before the end of the year.

Enterprise Systems Backup and Recovery: A corporate insurance policy” is a book aimed not just at companies only now starting to look at implementing a comprehensive backup system. It’s equally aimed at companies who are already doing enterprise backup and need that extra direction to move from a collection of backup products to an actual backup system.

What’s a backup system? At the most simple, it’s an environment that is geared towards recovery. However, it’s not just having the right software and the right hardware – it’s also about having:

  • The right policies
  • The right procedures
  • The right people
  • The right attitude

Most organisations actually do pretty well in relation to getting the right software and the right hardware. However, that’s only about 40% of achieving a backup system. It’s the human components – that last remaining 60% that’s far more challenging and important to get right. For instance, at your company:

  • Are backups seen as an “IT” function?
  • Are backups assigned to junior staff?
  • Are results not checked until there’s a recovery required?
  • Are backups only tested in an adhoc manner?
  • Are recurring errors that aren’t really errors tolerated?
  • Are procedures for requesting recoveries adhoc?
  • Are backups thought of after systems are added or expanded?
  • Are backups highly limited to “save space”?
  • Is the backup server seen as a “non-production” server?

If the answer to even a single one of those questions is yes, then your company doesn’t have a backup system, and your ability to guarantee recoverability is considerably diminished.

Backup systems, by integrating the technical and the human aspect of a company, provide a much better guarantee of recoverability than a collection of untested random copies that have no formal procedures for their creation and use.

And if the answer to even a single one of those questions is yes, you’ll get something useful and important out of my book.

So, if you’re interested in buying the book, you can grab it from Amazon using this link, or from the publisher, CRC press, using this link.

October Hits

 Aside  Comments Off on October Hits
Nov 012009

(We interrupt this regularly scheduled blog article with a reminder that Enterprise Systems Backup and Recovery: A Corporate Insurance Policy is currently on-sale with the publisher, CRC Press, as well as continuing to be available from such other fine online retailers as Amazon and others. Don’t forget – having enterprise class backup and recovery software is only just part of the equation in ensuring that you have a well running and reliable backup and recovery system. For comprehensive details about building that complete and reliable system, the book is an indispensable resource.)

So with October over, we’ve got some clear winners in the blog-article popularity stakes. Driven by search engine referrals we have a return to the top of the “Basics – Fixing NSR Peer information errors“. This is something that a constant turnover of visitors to the blog.

Here’s a thought: it’s time this should be addressed in the NetWorker Management Console. That’s right, instead of having NetWorker just log these warnings/errors, it would be handy if instead there was a section of NMC devoted to “intervention required” events … let’s see, that would probably fit most in the monitoring panel, and could even be reported under logging, with a double-click on the event to lead into a dialog box/session offering to delete the offending peer information if and only if the NetWorker administrator were certain that the host wasn’t being spoofed.

If you’re wondering why you need to fix these errors, it’s simple: they cause all sorts of issues when it comes time to recovery – either directly when trying to recover data for that client back onto that client, or as part of a directed recovery.

Feb 042009

I thought I’d just interrupt the regular flow of NetWorker commentary to recommend that you check out my book, Enterprise Systems Backup and Recovery: A Corporate Insurance Policy. (If you follow that link across to Amazon, you’ll be able to peruse some of the content of the book through Amazon’s nifty preview feature.)

The book distills much of my experiences with enterprise data protection and is focused on helping companies better understand the placement of backup within their environment, as well as getting an idea of procedures and policies that need to be in place to turn a backup solution into a backup system. This covers off a breadth of topics including, but not limited to:

  • Enterprise backup concepts overview
  • Roles of staff within the backup environment – not just IT staff!
  • Where backup fits within an environment
  • Total backup solutions – determining what should be backed up, and how
  • Recovery and disaster recovery guidelines and preparedness
  • How to test
  • Performance tuning guidelines and recommendations

If you’re after a bit more information on the book, you can also check out the accompanying site, Enterprise Systems Backup.

Regardless of which backup solution you use, you’ll find valuable information in the book.

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