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Organizing Regular Tests of Your Business’s Data Backup System

Though it may seem inconvenient to spend a few hours testing your backups, it is far better than the alternative of dealing with it when your systems eventually fail


Regularly checking your backups is an important part of your data protection policy. Wellness checks are not optional; even if you use a dependable, automatic program to protect mission-critical systems, testing your backup protects you from user error, file corruption, media failures and other issues.

The most important concept to keep in mind when developing your backup strategy is that every system will fail. This includes your backups. Whether you use data tape cartridges, a RAID array or a cloud system, no single technology provides completely perfect protection. Backup checks guarantee that you will always have an accessible copy of important data when you need it the most.

The good news is that regular checks are relatively easy to implement. Here are a few tips to keep in mind when setting up backups on mission-critical systems.

Checking Your Backups

Checking your backups can be as simple as opening a few files or looking at file information depending on the complexity of your system. You should make a plan that reflects the importance of the saved data. If your business cannot operate without a certain file, you should thoroughly check the saved copy, reviewing multiple entries and manually opening the file to verify that it functions as expected.

For databases, you organize automatic software checks to verify consistency. However, you should always supplement software-based tests by personally inspecting the files. You do not need to comb through every entry, but a hands-on approach will prevent data disasters.

When checking backups, review the following:

  • File Size
  • Revision/File Creation Dates
  • File Type Listing
  • Total Size of Backup
By keeping logs of your wellness checks, you will ensure consistent system protection. Your logs should include the date of the review and a list of any manually checked files.

Creating an Appropriate Schedule for Backup Checks

Ideally, you would check every backup that you create, but frequent checks are impractical on larger systems. As long as you are keeping several copies of your files, you can perform weekly or monthly wellness checks. Be sure to review incremental backups along with your full backups to make sure that the incremental copies are up to date.

In addition to regularly scheduled tests, you should check your backup after any major system changes. If you need to replace a RAID member, for instance, or if you are upgrading to a new version of your database application, increasing your wellness checks will give you peace of mind.

Schedule wellness checks following any of these events:

  • Operating System Upgrades
  • Backup Application Upgrades
  • Hardware Changes
  • Procedural Changes
If your business's backups are not fully automatic, you should also review your copies regularly after any significant staff changes.

Simulating a Data Loss Disaster

In addition to general checks, you should occasionally run through mock disaster scenarios. This allows you to spot flaws in your backup plan that could lead to serious disaster recovery costs down the line.

Review your plans for recovering from a sudden RAID failure or an accidental reinitialization. Try to estimate downtime and data reconstruction costs if your system fails between backups. Your goal is to minimize these costs, and you might need to make policy changes to incorporate more incremental backups or full backups as your storage needs grow.

Even with these precautions, most businesses will eventually deal with some type of data loss. Fortunately, wellness checks and a solid backup strategy decrease the costs associated with hardware issues.

If you cannot access important data and you do not have a recent backup, remember to turn off the affected system as soon as possible. Secure Data Recovery Services' engineers can help you recover from virtually any failure, but you improve your chances of a successful recovery by taking immediate steps to minimize media damage.

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