As a solution marketing professional, I seem to focus on communicating the key features and benefits of my products. In the case of IBM Tivoli Storage Manager (TSM), those things include its scalability, functionality, reliability performance and ability to reduce your costs. However, what we don’t focus on enough, it seems, is the importance of the vendor itself, and its stability, ability to execute, and commitment to provide exceptional customer support.
I was reminded of this by a stream of e-mails originating in South Africa. A large bank there, who we unfortunately cannot name, has been a TSM customer for more than a dozen years. They were recently acquired by a global banking company based in the United Kingdom. In doing its due diligence, the acquiring bank determined that it needed to evaluate some documents that were created, and deleted in the early 2000s.
The South African bank has been keeping periodic copies of its backup tapes, and copies of the TSM database, for long term retention, and had a reasonable expectation that the required documents were somewhere in their stack of tapes. However, they were not following the best practice of transferring the metadata from the database when they upgraded TSM from version to version over the years.
They needed TSM version 4.2, which IBM ended support for in 2002 (ten years ago!). And they needed a version that ran on AIX. Yikes!
The problem was that they needed to create a new TSM Server, using a very old version of the software in order to restore the old TSM database, which would then point them to where the documents were.
Of course, the easy thing to do would be to tell the customer they were out of luck, but that’s not what IBMers do. A worldwide search went out, and one of our long-resident software developers was able to dig out the needed code. The result … the bank was able to retrieve the needed files and completed the acquisition with only a minimal delay.
I came to two conclusions after seeing this story play out. One, you really do need to have a long-term data retention / archive strategy, and follow it. Simply sending backup tapes to a vault is not a viable strategy. You need to worry about how you are to going to restore that data in 10, 20, or more years when all of your IT infrastructure has been refreshed, virtualized, clouded, or whatever comes next. Think about using a content management system rather than your backup software when you need to retain certain information for long periods of time, and plan for periodic migrations of the data to new platforms.
Second, when you fail to follow the advice in ‘one’ above, wouldn’t it be good to have a partner that will go to the ends of the earth to help you out of whatever jam you find yourself in? I know that all vendors aspire to this, and many claim it, but all I can say is that I see it every day at IBM, especially among the Tivoli Storage team. You could do a lot worse. I really enjoy being a part of this team.
I was going to close with a joke about needing to find a player for my stash of 8-track tapes – but that would just be giving away how old I am.
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