The value of your backups is in the data

Summary:Some IT people still don't get the whole purpose of backups--even very seasoned professionals. But, the short answer is, "The value is in the data."

AQuestion
"Since before your sun burned hot in space and before your race was born, I have awaited a question. Make it a good one."

Here we are in mid 2012 and you'd think that you'd heard every possible mistake someone could make in working with backups. Not so. It's sad to say that every time I gather with other IT professionals, I hear the horror stories of backups gone bad. And, let me tell you this, it's hard for a snarky, quick-witted, sarcastic and highly irritable guy like me to remain silent during these tales of woe. I have to resist, with all my might, the urge to smack the monologing dolt who, while spouting his expertise, tells enthusiastically of his folly. Surely I can't be  the only one reaching for another Diet Dr. Pepper and shaking my head when these people open their mouths.

I often rejoice that I don't work with or for anyone like that. I'm so relieved that I phone or text my coworkers and tell them I'm glad that they are who they are and that I have the privilege of working with them.

I typically only receive a single text response back from one of my appreciative rants: LOL.

"LOL," is my quick response back, although I'm not really laughing. It seems appropriate to at least let my coworker think that I'm totally sane, normal and not pathologically focused on the incident(s) that sparked my mini rant via text to them.

The latest happy occurence of ill-conceived IT crazy happened a few days ago at a lunchtime seminar for a backup product. A very good backup product. In fact, it's a great product at a very reasonable price. I'll tell you all about it in another post.

For now, please endure the reliving of this particular story.

During the presentation, the marketing guy reviewed the major features and options of the product. He also covered price. Probably his undoing but knowing how expensive backup solutions are, he thought he had it under control.

I've been told that there are no dumb questions but I beg to disagree. There are dumb questions. They're usually launched by a well-meaning person who possibly wants to look smarter than other IT people or perhaps it's just a poor choice of words. Consider politicians who have to apologize for verbal infractions that often enough end their political careers. I digress.

Up goes the hand of a guy* across from me.

Remember that the marketing guy had just told us about pricing for his products. The lowest price for his solution is $5,000 for a physical appliance or a very reasonable monthly cloud-based backup subscription fee.

The gentleman across the table from me scoffed his rhetorical (I assume) question, "Why would I want to pay $5,000 to backup a $1,000 server at a remote site?"

I mumbled, "It's not the server value that matters, it's the data value."

It's also the value of the loss of productivity at that remote site while waiting for someone to drive over a USB disk or heaven forbid, a tape or set of tapes for restore.

He looked up at me when I commented with a slight look of disdain. But, it's he who should receive the disdain. I think he had some of his coworkers at this seminar too. Hopefully, they didn't embarrass him or say anything to him about his obvious blunder of a comment.

He probably reconsidered it later and took my comment in the spirit it was meant or perhaps he took it positively. I'll never know.

But, his comment did make me think about how some IT people feel about backups. Do some of them, or you, really feel that it's the server value and not the data that you're concerned with? If so, I'm shocked.

Sure, your data can reside on a $1,000 SOHO system or a $10,000 rack-mounted, enterprise unit but it makes no difference in the data's volume or value.

The only thing you need to consider, when deciding on a backup solution for your business is, your data's value. From that, you should select your backup solution. If your data is worth $500,000, then you shouldn't spare expense or go "on the cheap" for a backup, restore and disaster recovery solution.

Shouldn't that point be obvious?

Obviously not.

Of course, no one wants to spend more than he needs to on anything, even a backup solution. But, consider loss of productivity, the cost of data loss, the loss of customer interactions and the loss of confidence in your backup system and the people who maintain it, vendor as well as employee.

The reason I placed this post in Virtually Speaking instead of another area of ZDNet is because I think all too often IT people see virtual machines as expendable entities. They're temporary--more so than a physical system. Some of that perceived lack of value might originate in how easily one can create and recreate a virtual machine. And, that in essence, a virtual machine is a set of files, not a real computer.

It's that perception of value, or the perception of a lack of value, that causes a good-hearted IT professional to make such a silly assertion.

I hope that guy has his engineering drawings stored in a fireproof filing cabinet somewhere safe. I hope he doesn't think that he doesn't need to spend $1,000 on a fireproof cabinet when the paper that the drawings are on only cost $60.

What do you think? Should you spend wisely to protect your data assets or be overly frugal in spite of my advice? Talk back and let me know.

*If you're that guy, don't take too much offense to my comments. I'm sure that you're a very nice person. For me, the free lunch, the product overview and the opportunity to glean a good story from the experience was totally worth it. Thank you.

Topics: IT Priorities, Data Management, Servers

About

Kenneth 'Ken' Hess is a full-time Windows and Linux system administrator with 20 years of experience with Mac, Linux, UNIX, and Windows systems in large multi-data center environments.

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