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Commentary from a long term NetWorker consultant and Backup Theorist

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Learning NetWorker

Posted by Preston on 2009-01-25

NetWorker (indeed, any complex piece of software) is like a jigsaw puzzle. In order to use it properly, you have to learn how to put those pieces of the jigsaw puzzle together. Having just run another NetWorker training course, here’s some tips if you’re new to NetWorker:

  • Have handy access to documentation about the command line tools. For Unix users, this means to make sure the man pages are installed on every client, and you use them. For Windows users, this means make sure you download and maintain access to the NetWorker Command Reference Guide.
  • Get the basic nomenclature down pat. For instance, at bare minimum make sure you understand the following NetWorker terms:
    • Tier terms:
      • Client
      • Server
      • Storage Node
      • Dedicated Storage Node
    • Resource/Configuration terms:
      • Client
      • Group
      • Pool
      • Policy
      • Schedule
      • Level
      • Notification
      • Device
      • Jukebox
    • Backup/Recovery terms/concepts:
      • Saveset
      • Automated backup
      • Manually initiated backup
      • Recovery
      • Directed Recovery
      • Clone
      • Stage
      • How backups automatically start, how schedules and browse/retention policies are applied, and how pools are selected
    • Operational terms:
      • Label
      • Relabel
      • Mount
      • Unmount
      • Deposit
      • Withdraw
      • Inventory
      • Reset
    • Database terms:
      • Client file index
      • Media database
      • Saveset ID
      • Clone ID
      • nsavetime
      • Saveset dependencies and their relation to eligibility of a saveset or volume for recycling
  • Unless you are 100% certain as to what you’re doing, don’t*:
    • Run a command with an “auto answer yes” option set
    • Touch nsradmin
    • Ever commit to a relabel operation in a library without confirming slot ranges
    • Make spur of the moment backup configuration changes
    • Assume an untested backup process can be recovered from
  • Please read the Disaster Recovery Documentation before you have a disaster! Keep in mind at least half of this document is devoted to what could loosely be termed as “Disaster Recovery Preparedness”.
  • Don’t use the default pools – or rather, don’t trust any backup that media verification does not occur on. That means – if you backup but don’t clone (again, why?), make sure you have auto media verification (AMV) turned on. If you backup and clone everything, you can leave AMV off for the backup pool (since you’re cloning, you’re doing a very complete media verification anyway), but should turn it on for the clone pool.
  • Check your savegroup completion reports. If you don’t want to check these, just assume all your backups have failed. (I.e., check them.)
  • Zero error means fixing the error, not masking it. (In particular, be very careful about directives.)
  • When it comes to directives – skip for files, null for directories. Yes, there’s always exceptions, but this should be the same as an “i before e” rule for you.

Over time I may come back to this and add bits and pieces as I think of them.

* Obviously over time as you become more used to NetWorker, these restrictions relax. For instance, there’s a lot of powerful stuff that you can do within nsradmin, the command line configuration administration tool – however, it will also readily allow you to shoot yourself in the foot if you get it wrong.


4 Responses to “Learning NetWorker”

  1. Newbie said

    Is there a Networker advanced course available these days I can attend to? If does, do you provide this training course?

    • nsrd said

      I’m not aware of EMC having an advanced NetWorker training course – they have a fairly standard 5 day administrator course. If someone knows differently to this, I’m happy to be corrected.

      The company I work for, based in Australia and New Zealand, do offer NetWorker training courses that compress a lot of information into a two day course. This actually covers most of the topics I mentioned in the post/article, and leaves you in a position of general NetWorker knowledge afterwards where you can attain the other knowledge. We’re working on an advanced training course, but it’s not finalised yet.

      (If you’re in Australia or New Zealand, feel free to email me – for a brochure, etc.

      If you’re in the USA, based on various posts on the NetWorker mailing list it seems that the company you’d want to contact for training is Cambridge Computer. I’ve not attended one of their courses, so I can’t personally attest to their courses, but they seem to be one of the most recommended courses for the United States.)

  2. vijaysys said

    Just one question off topic. What are the future prospects for Legato NetWorker Backup Admins like us, Because NetWorker is facing tough competition with NetBackup. Being a NetWorker Admin for more than 3 years, i am loosing confidence slowly…

    your inputs could be helpful


    • Preston said

      I don’t see NetWorker going away any time soon. NetBackup and NetWorker have a tendency to periodically leap-frog each other in capabilities; for instance, the new probe based backup feature in NetWorker is going to be one of those “sleeper functions” that people don’t pay a lot to at the start, but it’s going to revolutionise several aspects of backup that have always been problematic to administrators. Likewise, the inline cloning offered by NetBackup is good, but NetWorker will eventually include a similar feature to this.

      Out of all the enterprise backup products, I’ve been working with NetWorker the longest – since 1996, and just like “tape is dead” stories, I periodically see reference that NetWorker is going to be “beaten” by NetBackup. I believe those stories as much as I believe the stories about tape being dead.

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