The "Six W's” of a Smarter Backup and Recovery Environment

In journalism, or any other information gathering activity, there are six tenets for any story, called the Six W’s – Who? What? When? Where? Why? and How? (yes, one is actually an “H”, so it goes). We all know this and practice it to some extent as a basic element of problem solving. But simple as it may be, it is often a helpful exercise to actually answer each question aloud (electronically, of course) to get a clear picture of a given story.

Today, I want to take a look at the idea of a “smarter backup and recovery environment,” which is something we discuss around here a lot and is covered in much more detail in the attached paper from DCIG. For those of us concerned with backup and recovery systems for all kind of organizations, a smarter backup is the ultimate goal – a backup and recovery environment that provides a maximum amount of coverage with a minimum of human intervention (and worry).

But WHAT does that mean, exactly?

Maybe the best way to define a smarter backup is to point out what it is not. It is not complex. It is not slow. It is not prone to failures or corruption. It is not… dumb.

Personally, the first element of a smarter backup that comes to mind is automation – the application and environment needs to do as much as possible on its own. It needs to know when to backup and not be told every time. It needs to ensure data is not corrupted, and if it is compromised, let me know before it becomes a widespread problem.

It should also be intuitive – a quality that defines technological progress and goes hand in hand with simplicity. As backup and recovery tools get better and better, they get more and more intuitive and easier to use. It seems obvious, but it is common for people to compromise on either older or unnecessary technologies because they don’t want to upset the apple cart. A smarter backup is intuitive and can grow with you, and there is no way around it.


Any given organization might have different reasons for wanting a smarter backup, but in the end, a smarter backup means better data protection with less management and worry; less management and worry means you and your staff can focus on more important things, including growing your business. A smarter backup makes a business more efficient and therefore more competitive.

Smarter backup = competitive advantage. Simple as that.


The short answer is YOU, Mr. “I Have Promised My Bosses that Our Data is Secure and Protected.” Because backing up your data probably isn’t a hobby for you and you have a great number of other things to worry about. If your backup software is smart and intuitive, it gives you the peace of mind to focus on other aspects of your IT environment.


When is a tricky question. The obvious answer is “now.” I mean, all things being equal, why wouldn’t you want to be as smart as possible right now? But reality is, it isn’t that easy. In most cases, you already have an environment that is running and at least doing the job. Ideally, your environment needs to gain intelligence incrementally, without upsetting the status quo.

Therefore, there is no specific time for installing a smarter backup. It is a gradual process of making regular improvements without taking steps backward. They key to progress is knowing what you need and how you and your organization define your own smarter backup.


The backup and recovery industry has come a long way in even the past few years. There are technologies available now from many companies, including our own, that can help make your backup and recovery environment smarter.

… and How?

The odd man out in the Six W’s is also the most important. How to make a backup and recovery environment smarter is the crucial question here, and the general answer is technology. New functionality and approaches in backup and recovery software are becoming smarter and making IT the lives of IT professionals easier. But that is a pretty general answer. Figuring out how to make YOUR backup and recovery environment smarter is something that every organization has to answer for itself. Know your needs and know the options. The best advice: research, plan and execute your plan.

But also, be empowered. New technologies and smarter functionality is out there and there are ways of implementing them that won’t break your system or your budget.