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Don't Let Back-Ups Back You Up

Backups are still necessary.

Backups are still necessary.

Everybody does them, and everybody hates them. Back-ups can cause more pain than they are worth and more so when they fail. Unfortunately, most failures aren't found until the back-up is critically needed.

With today's remote and local replication technology, shops are spending even less time doing back-ups than they used to. We have a tendency to believe that because there are so many copies around, they have less of a need to perform back-ups. Some shops don't even back-up test files!

The Problem

The requirement for backing up data due to expected media failure has become such a minimal requirement that some people have dropped back-ups off the local radar altogether. However, the need for back-ups due to program, user or other logical errors has increased over the last decade. Due to the large requirement business has for data and the number of users accessing the data, there is a larger probability of errors being entered than there ever has been in the past.

While we can back up data, there are issues as to what to recover or at which point in time to recover, especially with disk-to-disk backup becoming the preferred choice. Users make mistakes and we often end up with data that is wrong, inconsistent or unreadable. How do we know how to roll back, how far to roll back, and verify that it is correct? There is a lot of discussion about this very issue in the storage management arena. The generic term I use is "transaction level back-up," and it can consist of block level, record level and other level back up strategies (more for alternate platforms than the mainframe), but the roll-back is the issue.

Some implementations are complete with the journaling of all changes to aid with roll-back. But these require more work from the storage administrator and the database administrator to define metadata requirements as complex as some database definition.

Ted MacNeil is a capacity/performance analyst with more than 25 years in the IBM mainframe environment. Ted can be reached at



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