A Thankless Job??
What kind of system are you using to back up your data? This may not be the hot topic around the water cooler or at your weekly staff meetings, but it should be. CEO's, CFO's and users don't care what hardware or software you use, how backups are run, how demanding they are to maintain or the number of hours you spend setting them up and maintaining them. Data continuity and reliable, recoverable backups are simply put, table stakes. No different then running water or electricity.
No one cares about backups unless they need to restore something… and the amount of focus and caring will be directly proportional to the importance of the data being restored. Let’s be realistic here… backups are a thankless job. You need to have a solution in place that can back up your data, functionally test the restore and reliably complete that restore if and when (and there will be a when), you have a data loss.….anytime, anywhere.
There are a lot of products out there that will backup, verify and restore data. What separates those products is the ability to automate (set and forget) those functions to reduce the testing, monitoring and maintaining portion of the equation. Keep in mind…if you are able to restore the data, you’ve met the basic expectations of the business. If you can’t restore the data… everyone will want to know why and you’ve got a serious problem that could have a significant impact on the business.
Can you restore the data?
Backups are the last thing anyone wants to think about (or deal with) until data is deleted, corrupted or overwritten… then… its front and center and you are in the spotlight to get that data restored. Not being able to restore that data creates a negative perception about your abilities no matter how dedicated you are and how well you do everything else. Not being able to restore the data eclipses the actual issue that caused the data loss and focuses the blame of the data loss to you not being able to restore the data. Not having reliable restorable backups can cost you your job or worse… tank the company. Don’t forget… it’s not a question of IF you will need to restore data… it is a question of WHEN you will need to restore data. Can you restore the data?
How do you know your backups are good?
The real measure of your backups isn’t the daily report you get saying they were successful… it’s the percentage rate of successful restores. You can have logs saying you have 100% of your systems backed up 100% of the time BUT… but the true test is restoring from your backups. There are so many things that can go wrong even if all the logs say everything is 100% good. What is your successful restore percentage? Do you test your restores? You may say yes but do you REALLY test your restores?
So Many Options, So Little Time!!! …
There are a lot of options when it comes to backing up your data. Backup to tape, disk, cloud (remote replication) or a hybrid approach. Perform file level, image level or bare metal backups. Backup every day, 3 times a week, once a week, once a month (if you are backing up once a week or once a month… we REALLY need to talk). There are incremental, differential and full backups. How much data do you keep on backup, what is your rotation and retention period? Do you take your backups off site? By the way… the answer to the last question should be YES! If you don’t take them off site… we REALLY need to talk. If you do take them off site, where do you store them?
What is the right solution?
With so many options out there, what is the right solution? There is no one “right” solution that fits every company or situation. The solution really depends on your specific business needs (do you have regulated requirements), how much data you have and what level of tolerance your business has for data loss. With the emergence and affordability of technologies like server virtualization, higher internet bandwidths and cloud based storage, one solution stands out and not only addresses backups, but portions of your disaster recovery plan too.
This solution is based around backing up an entire image of your system. This “virtual image” contains the operating system and your data. Once the backup is completed, the virtual image is then tested (automatically) by booting that virtual image up locally on the backup device to validate the backup and restore test was successful. The“virtual image” is then replicated to the cloud.
The primary advantage to this is that you have the data local and off site AND you now have a virtual image that can be used in case of a disaster. This basic solution allows for quick file level restores locally or in the event of a catastrophic server failure, the image can be brought up as a virtual machine locally or in the cloud. This solution can be tweaked for number of servers, amount of data, type of data, etc.
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