How to Ensure Your Backups Deliver More Value to Your Business

John Maxwell
John Maxwell
John Maxwell is vice president, data protection product management, for Quest Software.

In a world where “do more with less” is now the norm, IT is fully expected to be both responsive and agile, deliver ROI, and adhere to an extremely demanding set of SLAs for availability, support and performance. For the backup and recovery team, this means that prolonged downtime and costly disruptions to business continuity are simply unacceptable. Today, the backup team is judged not on whether data can be recovered after an outage or loss, but on how fast it can restore critical technology and business services.

Unfortunately, most data protection programs are antiquated, fixating on protecting individual components within the infrastructure, rather than the mission-critical applications and databases powering critical technology and business services. These antiquated programs provide administrators with no visibility into whether or not critical services can be restored in accordance with SLAs, and make it nearly impossible for IT to demonstrate how it aligns with — and delivers value to — the business. In the current business landscape, where every dollar is scrutinized and every second of downtime is costly, it is imperative for backup and recovery to better align with the needs of the business.

Here are five ways IT can ensure that its data protection program delivers demonstrable value to the organization at large:

Get to know your company’s service level expectations

Service level agreements (SLAs) are the official measurement of success for IT, but they don’t always reflect the true level of expected service. With backup and recovery emphasis shifting from simply recovering data to the speed with which it can be recovered, the timeline defined in your SLAs might be completely outdated. It’s crucial to look beyond the agreement, and have a thorough understanding of the business expectation for restoring mission-critical services.


The backup and recovery team should have a clear understanding of what end users, and more importantly, company leaders, expect in terms of service levels. If your SLA says you have three hours to restore critical services, but leadership really wants them back in less than one hour — and you can’t deliver that fast — IT's value to the business is diminished. Make sure you understand which services are most critical to the organization, which ones are less important, and what the company’s continuity expectations are for each.

Play matchmaker

No IT department today has an unlimited budget. Delivering value to the business not only means ensuring that data is protected, and mission-critical applications and databases can quickly be restored when needed, but that the magic all happens in the most cost-effective way possible. There’s no one-size-fits-all plan that will adapt to fit all of your data, so you need to align your technology implementations with the criticality of the data and services you’re protecting.

Fortunately, if you’re following these steps, you’ve already taken the time to learn which data and services are most critical to the business. Now take the next step, and protect your most mission-critical assets with technologies that enable rapid recovery in the event of a corruption or loss, and choose tape or other less costly means for those assets that are not as essential. Such a tiered recovery strategy will keep you from busting your budget and wasting resources on expensive technologies for data that only needs to be retained for compliance purposes.

Adopt a services-centric approach

Organizations today are increasingly adopting a distributed computing model in which resources are geographically dispersed across multiple physical and virtual servers, databases and storage collections. In addition, most of today’s data center technologies have converged and virtualized, creating thriving yet complicated ecosystems in which an application running on a physical server located in Boston today can easily be migrated to a VM hosted in Los Angeles tomorrow. All of this means that the data center operates with a level of fluidity that has changed the way we need to approach backup and recovery.

In this fluid environment, it’s vital that administrators be able to restore entire lost services fast. To deliver the required functionality and service levels your organization needs, consider shifting focus away from protecting infrastructure (physical machines, virtual machines, etc.) and, instead, adopting a services-centric approach. Focus on protecting the entire service from end to end, safeguarding mission-critical applications and databases regardless of whether they reside in a physical, virtual or cloud environment. To accomplish this, you’ll need to employ data protection solutions that enable you to set and manage backups based on specific business and technology services. This will give you visibility into, and control over, whether or not or you can meet or exceed your SLAs, and enable you to restore groups of services rather than groups of servers.

Enable role-based backup and recovery

Build a data protection strategy that enables administrators in multiple roles to get directly involved. The single pane of glass approach worked fine in the old static IT infrastructure, but its flat, one-dimensional view of data protection supports just one IT admin role and focuses on infrastructure, rather than services. With today’s increasingly fluid environment, generalist backup admins too often are left on their own to shoulder an enormous load, while business-line owners have no visibility into (or control over) whether or not their critical assets are protected.

To correct this, enable specialized role-based workflows that map to the specific services administrators of all types are responsible for protecting. You need to give admins access to customized views and tools that enable them to create SLAs for the specific services they manage, so they can close the gaps in service delivery.

Report Directly on SLAs

If you’re doing all this good work, your company’s leadership should know about it. The only way to make that happen is to develop reports that clearly define the impact and value of backup and recovery to the entire business. And the only way to do that is to map your reports directly to the specific SLAs you’re committed to uphold.

This approach works hand-in-hand with role-based backup and recovery, in which the services protected by the various IT specialists map directly to the SLAs for each role. If you are already mapping the appropriate SLA to each role, you can easily generate reports demonstrating the positive impact on business-critical services, and the overall value of backup and recovery to the business.

Conclusion

Adoption of these five steps will help you to better align data protection with the business, and better enable IT to demonstrate that alignment to the business. It will increase agility and responsiveness, help you meet or exceed your SLAs, and put you on track “do more with less,” so you can deliver the best possible ROI and clearly validate IT’s value for the entire business.



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