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Dirty IT jobs: Grime and punishment

Dan Tynan | April 17, 2012
Flame wars, leakage, nasty Polish texting -- six more tales of dirty duty in IT

The dirtiest part of his job? The ensuing paperwork, he says.

"The biggest difference between a criminal and a penetration tester is that a criminal doesn't have to spend half his time writing reports," he jokes. "You get a job breaking into facilities to steal data and you think you'll be doing all sorts of cool crazy stuff all the time. Instead you wind up spending hours looking for a security hole, there's a couple of minutes of excitement when you get to break in, and then you spend the rest of your time writing about it."

Dirty IT job No. 2: Big data backup slaveYes, we know, big data will transform life as we know it. But there's a dark underbelly to big data that few people talk about: Somebody has to back up, catalog, and restore all that data.

Stephen Roubelet has seen the ugly side of big data firsthand. As IT/IS manager for engineering design firm RDK Engineers, part of his job is to manage 8TB of data over five locations. In fact, RDK had so much data there wasn't time to do a full backup every weekend.

"We had built a small server network so that we could spool our data to disc and then to tape," he says. "We'd start on a Friday night and not finish until Tuesday or Wednesday. With the backups running so long, there would invariably be problems, so I and my staff were constantly checking in over the weekends to make sure the jobs were still running."

Eventually Roubelet began doing one full backup a month and nightly incrementals, hoping none of the tapes in the series got damaged or the entire set would be lost. But about 15 months ago RDK adopted Actifio, a protection and availability storage platform that allowed the firm to virtualize its data management and simplify the backup process.

"Being the backup guy is like the hazing program for new IT workers," says Ash Ashutosh, CEO of Actifio. "No one gives you credit for doing a good job, but screw up once and you're fired. And when you bring that process to a big data environment people usually just give up. The data slave puts on a brave face and claims he's keeping the data secure, but he's hoping and praying no one ever asks him to recover something."

The dirtiest part of being a big data backup slave? Searching for old tapes when you need to do a restore, says Roubelet.

"The first question you have to ask: Is it on tape?" he says. "If so, what tape is it on? Did it spool over two or three tapes? If so, you have to find the whole sequence. Is it stored offsite? You'll have to contact the storage facility. Did the backup fail on the particular weekend when the file was saved? Our backup software may have crashed and restarted four times that weekend, and maybe one server didn't fully restart. Inevitably that's the server where the files you need were stored."


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