Monday, July 27, 2009

Have a Backup Plan!

When was the last time you thought about your backup practices for your ILS and other critical applications? Recently, I've seen a few restores come our way in SirsiDynix Client Care, so backups are on my mind. There is probably no topic that is more crucial yet more easily overlooked or forgotten over the long haul.

Take a moment to ply your favorite search engine for the terms "restore nightmare" or "restore horror story" or "backup tape failure" and you'll find some harrowing tales.

Back when the earth was young, the rocks were cooling and I was first using computers (ca. 1986), a knowledgeable friend offered these words of wisdom to me.

There are two kinds of computer users: those who have suffered from a hard drive failure and those who have not yet suffered from a hard drive failure.

Of course there are myriad possible catastrophes beyond the mere hard drive crash that can send one running for the backup media... or make you wish you had a backup! These include but certainly are not limited to main board (mother board) failures, power and UPS failures, natural disaster, DBMS problems, OS updates gone awry, and of course the most vexing source of problems, human error!

With that in mind, take a little time to think a few things through:

1. Are you doing both full and incremental backups? If you can manage it, a nightly full backup provides greater security.
2. Are you verifying that everything you think is being written to a backup tape is in fact being written to the tape?
3. Are your ILS backups taking a whole lot longer than they used to? Contact SirsiDynix Client Care to see if old and large obsolete files can be removed, saving you valuable time.
4. How long have your backup tapes been in service? Do you know how often the manufacturer says you should replace your tapes? If they are past their date, you may find yourself unable to read files from those tapes when the need arises!

5. Do you store some of your backups offsite? If not consider it, or at least consider a fireproof and flood-proof safe.

6. How many backups are you keeping? Tapes are not perfectly reliable, which is one reason to keep many generations of full and incremental backups. If something goes wrong you can't restore from the most recent tape, you'll really want to have another on hand – or in a secure offsite facility. Plan to keep at least four to six full system backups on hand, or enough tapes to cover 6 to 8 weeks.

7. How often are you backing up your OS? Your entire application? Your entire database? Could you readily back up more often?

8. Have you thought about a SaaS implantation of Horizon or SirsiDynix Symphony? In a SaaS implementation, you have the confidence that comes with well tested backup and restore procedures created and overseen by SirsiDynix System Engineers.

9. For non-SaaS sites, SirsiDynix offers unattended backup scripts for most platforms. Contact your Inside Sales Representative for a quote.

Until next time,

Mark Witteman
Senior Technical Advisor, Client Care

Monday, July 6, 2009

Study Hall: It's not just for jocks any more.

I have heard it and I have seen it, time and time again in training. As a trainer, I have just gotten through a particularly tough concept and asked the class for questions. One person will always speak what’s on the majorities’ mind and state, “Well, I will understand it more, once I play around with the system."

Well, now you can, in our Study Hall class.

Study Hall is a two-hour class scheduled every Tuesday and Thursday from 3:00 pm to 5:00 pm Eastern. There is no agenda or formalities with Study Hall. Just two hours for staff to practice the things they have learned in training. There is a trainer in each class, but you may never hear them speak. The trainer is there in case a trainee gets stuck, but the trainer will not be conducting any formal training. A trainee may pop in and out of the class, but they do not need to stay the entire time.

We are also working on having e-library available to use in our Study Hall. This means that a site will be able to make changes and try things on e-library and have SirsiDynix clean up the database. We have the above mentioned days and times, but please let us know if there are better times that we could be offering the class.

Study Hall gives librarians and staff an opportunity to “kick the tires” on the Symphony system. We look forward to hearing you in a Study Hall class soon.

Ken Bonney
Training Supervisor, Operations