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Directives and change control

Posted by Preston on 2009-07-15

It’s easy to change NetWorker directives. A few clicks here and there if you use NMC, then a couple of lines of text rattled off into the right fields, and suddenly you’ve made anywhere from small, precise changes to massive changes to a backup.

It’s for this reason that I think that modifying directives within the backup configuration should be considered important enough that they warrant their own change control processes. (I’ve previously talked about the backup administrator needing to be part of the change control authorisation process – this is another aspect however.)

Now, don’t get me wrong – despite what former employees may think, I’m not keen on excessive levels of red tape. In fact, I think a smart system should be designed at all times to minimise administrative overheads while ensuring that all accounting is still correctly done.

That being said, directives are, for want of a better term, dangerous. Mis-used, they can result in recovered systems being unusable – in data loss.

With this in mind, like other aspects of the backup system (adding clients, removing clients, adjusting savesets etc.), adjusting directives or applying directives to clients should also form part of change control.

Whenever directives are being changed, or applied, the following questions should be asked:

  • What is not working as desired?
  • What is the solution required?
  • What are the minimal steps required to make those changes?
  • How can system recoverability following the changes be tested?

It’s that final point that often goes missing with directives. Once, a long time ago (long enough to be NetWorker 5.5.3), a customer providing backup services to a host of companies setup a “zero error policy” but due to budget and time constraints merely kept on adjusting directives to remove any file from the backup that couldn’t be opened/read during the backup process. The end result was unrecoverable systems.

By placing directive maintenance into the realm of change control, we don’t seek to add more red tape to the backup system, but more thought, and more consideration of the consequences of changes that may adversely affect data and systems recovery.

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