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PerStrand 01-22-2008 02:45 PM

Data Backup Reliability Standards
It is a hard reality in the information world that many companies do a poor job in performing a data backup of critical business information and they are not even aware of it. In fact, they are not even aware of it until the day comes when data must be restored from a data backup. That’s when their data backup becomes very important. Data storage companies can provide hardware and solutions for backups, but businesses need to have confidence in their data backup technology and here are some critical standards that must be implemented in order to establish that.

Critical Reliability Standard 1 – Always test your data backup

Oftentimes, businesses like to implement a data backup solution for their critical information and put it on an automated schedule. Each night, the data backup will start and complete without event. The business thinks everything is okay until one day there is a failure of online media such as a disk drive and data recovery is required after the defective hardware is replaced.

The replacement of the defective hardware goes fine but the business discovers that recovery from the backup media does not work. This scenario happens all too often because businesses do not test their backups via mock or trial recoveries. One good way to test a data backup is to do a trial restore on an external hard disk drive. Or, if you do backups to an external hard disk drive, take that drive to another computer and attempt to restore from it.

Critical Reliability Standard 2 – Always check log files of data backup processes
There was once an IT shop that had a very organized and well-structured backup procedure for their mission critical data. The process had a log report giving information on the outcome of the data backup process. The problem was that no one read the report. When the day came to recover data, some of the files were corrupted and data transactions had to be re-entered for the prior day (and this shut down the retail outlet causing a day of lost receipts). It was only then that the data backup reports were read and it was revealed that problems with corrupt backup files had been occurring for quite some time. Had someone checked the log reports, it never would have ended up this way.

Critical Reliability Standard 3 – Create a data backup strategy

Not everything needs to get backed up everyday. If you try to back up all your business data each day you are more than likely to run out of hours to get it done. For example, you don’t need to backup the C:\Windows folder on your hard drive each day because you would go to your Windows system recovery disk in the event you needed to recover Windows operating system software.

And even though tape backup drive standards have resulted in tremendous improvements of data transfer speed from disk to tape, you still want to minimize the amount of data backed up daily. Some shops will do weekly “full” backups during a period of low usage (such as over the weekend) and then do only partial backups meaning that only files changed on a certain day are backed up. This results in shorter backup processing times for daily backups.
Not only does the above strategy result in shorter processing time for daily backups but also makes redundancy in backups. In other words, if a file is changed on Monday and the full backups are not until Sunday, that file will get backed up each day on a new backup tape until it is fully backed up on Sunday and it is unmarked as changed in preparation for new week. Novastor makes backup software that is very good for implementing a strategy of this nature.

So create a strategy based on how often data in certain folders changes and its importance to the primary mission of your business. For example, if your business processes sales orders each day then you want to make a daily backup of those transactions. Folders that never change should be backed up once or twice but excluded from daily processing. Only you know your business data so you are also the best expert for planning a data backup strategy.

Remember that the very survival of your business depends on its ability to access up-to-date critical business data quickly. Dropping the ball on data backup could threaten the very life of it.

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