The demands on backup and data protection are only getting more complex. The rise in multi-million-dollar ransomware attacks pushes backup protection and data resiliency to the forefront of IT infrastructure conversations. Meanwhile, government regulations aiming to protect personal data and ensure that organizations can weather a disaster or cyberattack continue growing in number and requirements.
At the same time, the resources afforded to manage and oversee backup operations are holding steady at best. Data protection teams are asked to do more with the same headcount and budgets, making complete backup protection that much trickier.
These coalescing factors mean it’s necessary for teams to move beyond manual data collection and reporting activities. Using tools that centralize operations, introduce automation, and improve visibility across stakeholders minimizes labor hours and risk while maximizing confidence that data is protected.
Backup Software Native Reporting Limitations
Reporting is an afterthought of many backup tools. While more contemporary solutions include reporting capabilities and offer user-friendly interfaces, the reporting itself still leaves much to be desired.
- Reliant On Manual Behaviors: Using a tool’s native reporting interface implies using manual labor to pull and review data. This is an inherently time-intensive process prone to human error. It leaves team members spending unnecessary hours on data collection and not enough time performing more holistic oversight.
- Inconsistent Performance Metadata Standards Across Products: Organizations with multiple backup products in their environments cannot efficiently pull and consolidate performance data. Each backup product has its own unique metadata standards. As a result, normalizing data and consolidating it even once is a massive undertaking. Doing it again and again, perhaps with new members being added to the team, makes it an arduous responsibility.
- Limited Reporting Customization: Managing backup performance effectively means strong visibility into distinct parts of your environment. However, environments managed by different team members makes segment visibility challenging. Further, the shear scope of these environments makes parsing performance metrics at these granular levels sometimes impossible.
- No Independent Verification: Backup reporting is frequently a response to internal or external auditor queries. It’s ironic, then, that we rely on the backup tools themselves to report on their own performance. With zero independent validation, we can’t be sure that the performance metrics are wholly accurate.
- Short Data Retention Periods: Try pulling a backup performance report from three months ago. Can you? Native tools often purge performance data after 30 or 60 days. This makes it impossible to respond to auditor requests for performance metrics from earlier periods.
Teams managing enterprise-scale backup environments relying on native reporting find themselves spending countless labor hours per month on grossly tactical activities. All the while, they introduce human error into their operations and get limited insight into their backup health and resiliency.
Ready To Streamline Your Backup Monitoring & Reporting?
Contact us for a demo of Bocada in your environment.
Ten Tested Ways To Improve Backup Monitoring & Reporting
Native backup tools are excellent conduits for collecting raw performance data. However, they do not make for efficient and effective backup monitoring. Instead, add in the following proven elements to your backup operations. They ensure strong backup health oversight and offer a proactive way to get ahead of issues that impede data resiliency.
1. Automate & Centralize Backup Performance Data Collection. Imagine hopping from one backup solution to another. Each time you must manually gather performance data, normalize it in a coherent way, and then develop reports time over time. It’s cumbersome, time intensive, and prone to human error.
Rather than maintain a fragmented approach, leverage tools that automate the collection, normalization, and consolidation of backup performance data across all of your backup tools. Regardless of the type of complex backup environment under management—on-prem, cloud, hybrid, or multi-cloud—this approach automatically aggregates data under a single pane. You can dig into performance metrics immediately with no need to spend time gathering the data first.
2. Create Report Templates & Automate Report Creation. Your team likely reviews the same types of backup performance reports time and time again. This may include creating lists of standalone failures to isolate backups that warrant attention. Or it could mean developing lists of successes and failures to determine overall success rates and performance toward goals.
It’s a necessary process to assess performance. However, it can mean up hours per week on report creation. Consider templatized reporting instead. Using tools to preconfigure reports exactly how you want to see them, for instance by time period, backup server, or by successes vs. failures, you’ll have the reports you need for day-to-day monitoring. You also get an easy way to address monthly or yearly audit queries as well. Schedule these reports to run at necessary cadences for reports when you and other needs them.
3. Schedule Recurring Report Distribution. Automating report creation removes hours of manual activities per week. However, you’ll still need to make sure those reports reach key stakeholders.
Automate report scheduling and distribution so that key stakeholders get the information they need in a timely way. For backup and data protection teams, set up daily operational reports. This gives them a sense for how the past day’s backups went and where they need to focus their day’s attention. For senior IT infrastructure personnel, consider weekly or monthly overview reports to give them peace of mind that day-to-day operations are running smoothly. Lastly, set up monthly reports that showcase overall success rates to prove compliance guideline adherence for auditors.
4. Leverage Segments To Better Isolate Performance Gaps. Aggregated data often hides performance issues within unique segments of your backup environment. For organizations with thousands upon thousands of backup jobs, trouble areas in one particular environment segment may go unnoticed.
Try automating reports that split your environment into key segments to overcome this opacity. You’ll see if certain segments are underperforming against success criteria and if you’re meeting country or region-specific compliance regulations. Or, create reports to see how healthy different areas managed by different team members actually are. This process pinpoints personnel who may need additional support or guidance in overseeing their segments.
5. Implement Critical Failure Alerting. Backups will fail at some point in time. It’s inevitable. However, in an enterprise-scale environment, finding the failures of greatest concern can feel like looking for a needle in a haystack. With critical failure alerts in place, your team can efficiently isolate which failures to jump on first.
Consider failure error as an alert trigger. For instance, if a failure happens due to a locked file error, there is likely no broader underlying issue. A re-run will likely yield a success. However, a media error likely indicates a broader issue for further attention. Having alerts in place to notify you of these types of failures is a key way to optimize team work flows and make sure time is spent on high-value activities.
6. Leverage Consecutive Failure Alerting To Prioritize Workflows. It’s not enough to know that a failure occurred. The underlying issue must be addressed and the job re-run to resolve the issue. You’ll want a process in place to prioritize which failures get your attention first. This is where keeping track of consecutive backup jobs failures comes in place.
Because future re-runs of backup jobs may be successful, focusing on just those jobs that failed after repeated attempts better streamlines workflows. Agree on a consecutive failure benchmark (i.e. the number of times a backup job must fail before garnering attention) and create alerts around that threshold. This ensures only critical issues get escalated for immediate attention.
7. Proactively Identify Unprotected Asset. How confident are you that all of your organization’s resources and assets are have backup protections? The speed with which assets are created, and the breadth of teams empowered to create those assets, means are likely not secure.
Regardless of how asset records are kept—asset inventory software, propriety in-house databases, CSV files—data protection teams need a way to know if they are protected. This means having an efficient way to review backup logs, compare them against asset lists, and determine if those assets are protected.
Tackling this manually is too time-consuming. At best, the activity will get done once or twice a year. Further, the inherent human error involved in the process means many unprotected assets remain unidentified. This is why automatically syncing and comparing asset inventories to backup records is a proven way to effectively identify unprotected resources. Leveraging tools to automate cross-references. You immediate validation that assets are fully protected, or a ready-made punch list of assets that require the right protections.
8. Monitor & Predict Storage Trends. Regardless of whether you’re storing backup data on-prem or in the cloud, you need to keep an eye on storage usage. This ensures you avoid storage capacity issues or unexpected expenses due to storage usage overruns.
Add in recurring weekly or monthly storage usage reporting to get ahead of unexpected storage usage issues. You can visualize usage patterns and assess if usage trends into higher-than-expected rates. This type of proactive reporting helps evolve your backup protocols to decrease storage usage while still meeting key compliance guidelines and regulations.
9. Review Variances In Data Backed Up Over Time. Backup activities act as a last line of defense in the event of a disaster or cyberattack. That is, in the event of a data loss, they ensure critical data restorability. However, backup operations also serve to sound an alarm and help organizations get ahead of still-unknown cyberattacks.
Consider regularly reviewing variances in bytes being backed up. It’s a practice streamlined via automated backup monitoring software and it lets IT operations teams play a proactive cybersecurity identification role. This is because cyberterrorism can impact the byte counts of recurring backup jobs through a variety of ways. For instance, ransomware that removes files entirely will result in zero backup volumes moving forward. Relatedly, malware that replicates and alters files can also impact backup byte increases or decreases.
These are subtle changes that go undetected for quite some time. In fact, research shows it takes an average of 200 days to identify a data breach. With measures in place to identify byte count variances, you can get ahead of bad actors.
10. Streamline Activities Across Ticketing and Remediation Monitoring. Consider the typical process following a backup job failure. You first identify that the failure happened. You then assess if it failed due to a systemic problem that needs further attention. If so, you then create a ticket with relevant failure information and submit that ticket. You then monitor the ticket and ensure its resolution. It’s a multi-step process replicated possibly hundreds of times per month in an enterprise backup environment.
Imagine, instead, automating this process entirely. Using systems programmed to identify critical issues, tickets get created and submitted the moment a failure is found. Additionally, running reports that automatically monitor ticket status keeps you on top of the triage process.
This approach shores up the average resolution window associated with fixing backup errors. It also minimizes the amount of time needed to fix those errors in the first place. Your team’s time is used more effectively while failures get fixed faster.
How To Implement Backup Monitoring & Reporting Optimizations
You can build scripts to automate some data collection and reporting. However, this approach comes with major limitations. Automations frequently fail with new backup product versions. This mean you’ll keep reviewing and revising scripts on a regular basis. Also, this approach leaves you developing normalization processes and benchmarks in the event that your organization uses multiple backup products. On top of this, scripts generally stay limited to backup reporting metrics. They do not extend automation across data protection operations like unprotected asset identification, ticketing, and storage monitoring.
These limitations get addressed head on by backup monitoring and reporting automation software. As independent solutions that oversee backup data collection, reporting, and oversight, these tools provide a single-pane view to simplify backup management and automate broader data protection activities. They equip teams to be more efficient, implement streamlined workflows, better secure backup health, and build peace of mind that data is fully protected.
Bocada LLC, a global IT Automation leader, delivers backup reporting and monitoring solutions that give enterprises complete visibility into their backup performance. Bocada provides insight into complex backup environments, enabling IT organizations to save time, automate ongoing reporting activities, and reduce costs. With the largest installed customer base in the Fortune 500, Bocada is the world’s leading provider of backup reporting automation. For more information, visit www.bocada.com.