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Why backups, maintenance and security are must-dos for IT shops

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Keeping an organization’s computing system up to date used to be easier for systems administrators. In the not-too-distant past before 24-7 availability, IT could perform backups and maintenance and install security components at regular intervals, usually at night when the rest of the company had gone home.

Today, systems are constantly in use, making it difficult for IT to perform essential housekeeping and security tasks. But these tasks must be done or companies will suffer consequences including loss of data, customers and revenue.

“If you’ve never restored from your backup, you must assume you don’t have a backup.”
—Larry Bolhuis, chief i-entist, Frankeni Technology Consulting

Tools exist to make it easier and faster to run backups, perform maintenance and add security updates, but those tasks still must be done. It’s up to management—the CIO or business owner—to see that IT and systems administrators have the capability to do these necessary tasks.

Creating a Backup Window

Perhaps the biggest challenge for systems administrators is scheduling a backup. “Finding the time to run backups clearly is an issue,” says Larry Bolhuis, chief i-entist, Frankeni Technology Consulting.

Some companies use LPARs to let employees or customers continue to work while the system is being backed up. But some vendors charge full price for every LPAR installed, which eliminates the option for some companies, Bolhuis says.

LPARs aren’t the only solution. A number of tools can help. One popular tool is “save while active,” which requires a narrow window to establish a checkpoint for the backup. Once the checkpoint has been established, the system can be made available for users while the backup proceeds. To run the tool optimally, some customizing is necessary, Bolhuis says. “Typically you have to write a custom backup to run save while active effectively, but it’s not hard. You just have to have two pieces—one does the actual backup and the other is the message that says we’ve achieved our checkpoint,” he says.

The typical window needed to get a checkpoint for scale-out systems with four to six cores is about 10 minutes. If you have a smaller system, it can be less time.

Avoiding Mistakes

Once you have your checkpoint, it’s time to back up the system. A backup provides a complete copy of the data in the event of a hardware or system failure or in case of human error. Whatever the case, you’ll be able to remedy the situation faster if you have a backup that’s up to date.

A complete backup is a necessity. “A partial backup doesn’t do you any good so you need to consider how long the backup takes,” Bolhuis says. “You don’t have a backup until the backup is done,” so spend the time to do it right, he notes. The actual backup does take a few hours, but if you’ve already established a checkpoint, your system can be in use while the backup runs.

Shirley S. Savage is a Maine-based freelance writer. Shirley can be reached at savage.shirley@comcast.net.


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Why backups, maintenance and security are must-dos for IT shops

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