Do IT pros pay enough attention to vendor recommendations and support?

Derek Schauland relates a recent troubleshooting incident in which his inclination to "just make things work" didn't really pan out. What is your troubleshooting approach? Take the poll.

Recently my organization put in a Quantum SuperLoader to help make our data backup process more efficient. It removes the human error factor of needing to change the tapes (or the need to be reminded to change the tapes) every day.

During the installation process for the device, I found that the card I ordered was different than what I (and the documentation) was expecting, but being the determined IT pro that I am, I ordered a different cable to work with both the card and the library and went on about the installation. The process of beginning tape backup jobs was going very well. Our backup application was easily managing to get the jobs off to a good start and some jobs even completed successfully...until they didn't.

Each night during the backup, one of the jobs would lock the drive and spin its wheels continuously until the server or the library was restarted and the Backup Exec services restarted, usually through the Services console in Windows. This was happening every day with the exception of a few random days when all the jobs completed.

Read the... manual!

I looked through the documentation, searched the Backup Exec support site and looked all over the Internet for some solution that would end the constant restarting of some backup-related hardware and got nowhere fast.

Finally, after looking through the manual again, I decided to call technical support for the library as there seemed to be no feasible solution to the issue.

Support suggested that the card I had was not on the tested list of SAS controllers that Quantum has, which seemed odd to me because Windows supported the configuration, and the library and the drive were visible in Device Manager as well as Backup Exec. I decided to get new drivers and see if that might help.

Downloading drivers is only step one

I got the latest drivers from Symantec for Backup Exec (BE) and still the drive and library showed up in both Device Manager and BE. The problems kept occurring. The drive was producing an error code denoting that the drive was locked.

Deciding that support must know more about this drive-locking issue than I, I reluctantly called again. The engineer who worked with me checked the configuration of the library and found that the library was using sequential mode for backup jobs. Because I was using BE, the library needed to run in random mode and allow BE to control the tape selection and usage. Once this was changed, he again suggested that the card was not supported.

I asked if there was a list of tested cards he could provide so I could look into the issue further. But having made configuration changes to the hardware, I wanted to give it another try. I also thought perhaps that stacking the jobs so the tape didn't need to be unloaded between them might help, but the error was the same: "Drive locked."

Paying attention to support is good for what frustrates you

With the frustrating error still occurring, I worked with our reseller and ordered one of the cards from the tested list. The sales representative for Quantum had provided a recommendation as to which card to use based on experiences with other customers, so I took his word for it and ordered that card.

After the installation of the new SAS card and reinstallation of the BE drivers, the backup job problem soon began to diminish. Because I was a bit anxious to see all the jobs finish, I staggered and started them all after the hardware was hooked up. While there were a few missed jobs due to scheduling, there were no locking errors.

The following day when the backup jobs ran according to their schedule, all jobs completed. This has been the case every day since.

Bottom Line

It is great to try to use what you have and make things work, but sometimes you can outsmart yourself. Support is there to lend you a hand and if something as simple as changing a card can prevent a frustration, you might want to put stubbornness aside and do as they suggest.

Have you ever brought on a problem situation by trying to work around or supply your own solution?