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Online analytical processing (OLAP) services are used to analyze the types of information stored in data warehouses. Using the analogy of multidimensional data structures called cubes, OLAP services provide for complex analysis of database information. To improve performance, the OLAP server precalculates many data combinations (called aggregations) to speed analyses. On the client side, users can use OLAP-enabled tools to easily create meaningful queries. A good example of such a tool is Microsoft Excel 2000 s PivotTable feature (shown in Figure 1-4). The result of creating an OLAP system is a server that is well-tuned to provide meaningful analyses of complex data relationships. The details of implementing OLAP services are beyond the scope of this book, but a good resource is SQL Server 7 Data Warehousing by Michael Corey and Michael Abbey, et al. (Osborne McGraw-Hill, 1999).
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It s important to make sure you have enough people to maintain any type of backup solution you implement. When you re determining your business requirements, be sure to measure how much time your IT staff has to implement and manage a backup solution. Before you develop your data protection plan (which we ll cover in the next chapter), there s no easy way to determine who will have time to take care of these tasks or even how much time and effort your backup solution will take. For now, take a good inventory of how many people are available in the IT department and how many might have time to perform the necessary tasks. If you find that everyone is already overloaded, then it might be necessary to hire more people to share the anticipated workload. Additionally, working with any new technologies that you choose to implement will require new skills. The backup hardware and software you choose will undoubtedly require some expertise. Hopefully, much of the training can be obtained from manuals and support forums. For more extensive tasks, such as disaster recovery planning, you ll probably need to send individuals to training classes where they can learn from experts. Finally, when you evaluate the labor costs, you ll need to look at the indirect costs of performing data protection tasks. That is, while individuals are managing backup and re-
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covery options, they re not spending time doing other tasks, such as systems administration or new machine rollouts. These indirect costs may be hard to measure, so most organizations figure the employee s cost (based on his or her salary and benefits) when trying to calculate hard numbers.
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So far, we ve talked about the best-case scenarios (essentially, creating a bubble) and looked at real-world constraints (bursting it). In all likelihood, none of this information was shocking to you. The real challenge is in determining what backup strategies apply to your own environment. You ll need to find out what your working limitations are. This won t be an easy task, even in the best-managed organizations. It involves finding information from all types of individuals and departments within the company. You ll
Evaluating Corporate Data Requirements
have to work hard to find existing data, and make best guesses and estimates for areas in which data isn t available. Let s start collecting some of this information by determining the types of protection your business requires. After we have a rough estimate of this information, we ll put it together into a sample business requirements worksheet.
Deciding What to Protect
Before you can start developing a data protection plan, you ll need to consider what information you want to protect. We ve already discussed why it s not feasible to protect everything (remember the real-world constraints ). Certain types of information are more important than other types, and your data protection plan must treat them accordingly. The best plan will be based on the specific details of your business environment. For example, if a group of users is primarily responsible for entering data into a centralized database system, it might not be necessary to back up each of the client machines. In this case, a good strategy might be to back up a typical configuration once and use it to rebuild machines in the event of a failure or loss of data. In a very different computing environment, however, the goals may be quite different. Suppose you have engineers who store large drawings and schematics locally on their workstations. In this case, you need to back up information on their machines. Many different types of information are stored on your network, and all are important. For example, an e-mail message to a coworker regarding lunch plans is important to the sender, even if it is not mission-critical for your organization. Therefore, you should view the importance of information based on the organization as a whole. For example, the most important piece of information in the world to an individual might be the Microsoft Word document he or she was working on immediately prior to a disk crash. This, in itself, might not sound catastrophic. But, if this individual was your CEO drafting a message to shareholders, the disk crash would be quite costly (especially to the system administrator s career!). So, how do you decide what to protect One method is to classify the importance of your various pieces of information. For example, your sales databases might be of Mission Critical importance, whereas daily spreadsheets generated from this data might rank Low Priority on the scale. If you think you know this information, you can provide a baseline estimate of what s required and then present it to those who are affected. In all cases, however, make sure you talk to these people. Managers may have a very different idea of the importance of data when compared to other users (who actually deal with this information frequently). Keep in mind that determining how to protect information must be a team effort if it is to be accurate and successful. This information will be very important in determining a backup plan. An example is shown in Table 1-1.
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