Data Protection Simplified: New Interface Reduces the Cost and Complexity of Back-up Administration

Cloud & smarter Infrastructure Weekly. An IBM service management perspective.Data is widely seen as an organization's most critical asset—the one that supports all strategies and guides all decision-making. This being the case, one might expect that asset to be exceptionally well protected via smart, forward-looking backup and recovery solutions.

In many cases, however, this is not the case. While backup and recovery solutions are among the oldest and best established of all IT domains, their long history has, in many cases, worked against them in the sense that older interfaces have continued to prevail. Though the role and importance of data has ascended, the usability of data protection solutions has often failed to keep pace.

This is particularly problematic in the face of exploding data volumes and increased IT complexity across organizations of all sizes. Understanding just where data is and creating appropriate backup processes is difficult enough, but constantly tracking which processes have been completed and which have run into problems is an even greater concern.

What's creating this challenge? Among other factors, backup and recovery solutions tend to use interfaces that were in vogue at the time they were originally developed. Scripts and command lines, while powerful tools, have the effect of complicating backup management and related problem-solving. They also represent a hurdle for the productivity of a new generation of IT staff—many of whom lack experience with such specialized interfaces and are accustomed to working with tools with more intuitive visualization.

TSM's new GUI enhances data protection, increases efficiency and simplifies back-up administration

It's now much easier to triage and prioritize problems by business impact, and then respond to them in a manner that will minimize that impact. This benefit alone will prove compelling to many larger organizations, at which thousands of backup tasks may be executing over the course of a single business day, and of them, more than one is likely to fail.

That's why the latest version of IBM Tivoli Storage Manager—IBM's flagship, enterprise-class backup and recovery solution—has been developed with an entirely new interface: the Tivoli Storage Manager Operations Center, which completely revolutionizes back-up administration. Instead of forcing storage administrators to wade through logs to understand how well tasks have been executed, it puts critical information right at their fingertips via a visually appealing GUI.

To do so, it aggregates and analyzes task execution data, detecting issues that have come up, prioritizing those with greatest potential impact, and alerting managers to spur a quick and effective fix. All of this happens via a Web-based dashboard that helps managers visualize the back-up infrastructure in whatever level of detail is necessary—from the biggest picture to the finest detail. That means not just the systems and data to be backed up, but also the archives into which data is copied, and the overall health and status of backup jobs.

If it turns out that a given backup process failed, color-coded information from the dashboard clearly illustrates that failure. Smart analytics now included with the solution help isolate the problem to its root cause—a simpler, faster way to bring any failed process back online, and reduce the risk of data loss.

The new offering also generates alerts, and these too have been developed with administrative convenience in mind. They are provided "in context," meaning that beyond the alert per se, there is also associated information that's relevant to the alert available from the same interface. As a result, fewer total steps are needed on average to resolve problems; problem resolution is faster and the costs and business impact are both significantly diminished.

Get simplified task prioritization, faster troubleshooting, and vastly improved administrative convenience

While the data needed to accomplish these goals has always been available to administrators from the TSM family, it's never been so easy to visualize, understand, and use—and that, in turn, has many positive implications.

For instance, it's now much easier to triage and prioritize problems by business impact, and then respond to them in a manner that will minimize that impact. This benefit alone will prove compelling to many larger organizations, at which thousands of backup tasks may be executing over the course of a single business day, and of them, more than one is likely to fail.

Administrative flexibility is another significant benefit. Because the new interface doesn't require special training to understand and use—unlike custom scripts or command lines—a greater percentage of IT team members can use it. Storage tasks that might previously have required an expert can now be handled by generalists, allowing experts to dedicate more time and energy to more complex problems. Furthermore, new, incoming team members can be made productive much more quickly and thus contribute in ways that would not have been possible before.

TSM has never been more convenient to use, either. Since the Operations Center is Web-based, it can be accessed and used anywhere in the world, using any Web browser on any smart device. This redesign means that on-the-go team members will find they can easily track how well backup processes are performing at will, anywhere they happen to be.

Overall data protection effectiveness climbs as well. Data is already the most important asset at most organizations, yet it's about to get more important yet. Trends like big data analysis, for instance, will obviously require more comprehensive protection of the underlying data if they're going to deliver the intended value. With data volumes continuously exploding, the prospect of being able to protect more data more easily and efficiently is bound to appeal to storage managers.

If the revamped interface of this solution sounds modern to you, you'll probably also like the development process that led to it. As an illustration of IBM's recent commitment to collaborative transparency with customers, the release of IBM Tivoli Storage Manager Operations Center was a direct outcome of client feedback taking place over 18 months and included 15 different prerelease iterations offered as open betas.

That same process will continue to apply going forward. IBM's Cloud and Smarter Infrastructure development team will be bringing the same kinds of improved visualizations, via a Web-based GUI, to all functions of all members of the IBM Tivoli Storage Manager family, as well as adding still more analytics capabilities and even deeper, more powerful forms of automation. Stay tuned as this key solution group continues to advance!

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