Don't be a Snail: Stop Changing Your Backup Software

Sometimes I walk to work in the mornings (I live just over 2 miles from the office), and if I leave early enough I walk down this particular sidewalk that has just been sprinkled with water.  On each side of this sidewalk is grass, and watered grass here in Southern California tends to mean that snails will be there. The snails take advantage of the wet, cool sidewalk (and the fact that the sun isn’t overhead), and they decide to cross from one bunch of grass to another bunch of grass. 

On any given morning there will be several hundred snails crossing from one side to another.  200 or so will be crossing from the left to the right, and 200 or so will be crossing from right to left.  You know, ’cause the grass on the other side is, well… you know.  The funniest one I saw was a snail that had made it 95% of the way from one side to the other, and then changed his mind and turned around.

I got to thinking about backup software (as one does), and all of the people I know that are moving from product A to product B.  Then a bunch of other people that are moving from product C to product A, while others are moving from product B to product C — and they all think that this will make their lives soooooo much better.

I’ve done hundreds of backup assessments over the years.  I can only think of one or two where the gist of the recommendation was, “Your backup software sucks.  You should change it.”

I can, however, think of many, many times where the problem was “you’re not streaming your tape drives,” or “you’re manually specifying an include list and you should use the auto-selection feature,” or “you’re making too many full backups,” or “you’re using the scheduler in a way that it wasn’t designed to work,” and on and on and on.

Changing backup products is one of the riskiest things you can do to your backup environment.  The learning curve of the new backup product is almost definitely going to reduce your recoverability for a significant period of time.

What would be much better is to bring in an expert in that product for a few weeks and have him/her tell you how best to use the product you already have.  The learning curve is much easier, the cost is much lower, and the period of instability will be much shorter.

Don’t be a snail.  Learn what the grass on your side of the sidewalk really tastes like before you start crossing the sidewalk.  Remember that some snails die along the way.


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Written by W. Curtis Preston (@wcpreston). For those of you unfamiliar with my work, I've specialized in backup & recovery since 1993. I've written the O'Reilly books on backup and have worked with a number of native and commercial tools. I am now Chief Technical Evangelist at Druva, the leading provider of cloud-based data protection and data management tools for endpoints, infrastructure, and cloud applications. These posts reflect my own opinion and are not necessarily the opinion of my employer.