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Top Tips on How to Backup Data

Data is vital to any business and protecting it is essential. Imagine if your business had a fire, flood, break in or hardware failure and your data wasn’t backed up.

Statistics from National Archives & Records Administration in Washington state: 93% of companies that lost their data for ten days or more due to a disaster filed for bankruptcy within one year of the disaster.

50% of businesses that found themselves without data management for this same time period filed for bankruptcy immediately.

I have had business owners call us who are virtually in tears because of a loss of data disaster.

It is often too late if the machines are beyond repair; we have on occasion managed to recover some data from hard disks. If the business had a disaster recovery plan in place and a suitable back up procedure then they could be back up running within days.

Checkout the following tips and advice on backing up data:

1. Identify what data needs to be backed up and eliminate any duplicate data wherever possible.  Periodically review the backup selections to ensure that all the data required is being backed up.  There can often be additional applications and data on computers in locations where the current backup system does not span, meaning not all the data is being backed up.

2. Ensure the backup media has enough space to accommodate all the required data There should be enough space for a 'Full' backup, not a 'Differential' backup.  Try to avoid taking 'Differential' backups as it is far safer to have a 'Full' backup each time.  Never perform backups to the same drives on which the data is located and always aim to store all of the backup drives or tapes off site.

3. Ensure the correct backup software is installed to accommodate backup needs.  If securing a SQL server or an Exchange server, an 'agent' maybe required for the backup software and these can be purchased separately.  Do you need to secure 'open' files? These are files in use at the point when the backup is taken. If so, you may need to purchase a separate 'agent' in order for your backup software to secure the 'open' files.

4. Implement a rotational backup system, whereby multiple backup tapes or drives are in use For example: Tape 1 for Monday, Tape 2 for Tuesday, Tape 3 for Wednesday, Tape 4 for Thursday and Tape 5 for Friday.  Label the tapes with the day of the week to make selection of the correct media obvious.

Note: The above example provides one weeks' worth of data storage with five different restore points.  If you realise on Friday that a file was accidentally deleted on Tuesday, you can restore the file from Monday's backup.  If you didn’t notice the deleted file until the following week, you would not be able to restore it from your backup. You could introduce more rotation to provide an extended period of time from which you can restore data.

By introducing three more tapes, labelled as Friday 2, Friday 3, Friday 4 and re-labelling Tape 5 (see above) to Friday 1, you then have four weeks' worth of data backup retention to revert back to. Extend this practice further and retain Friday 4 and replace it with a new tape each time, this allows you to restore back as far as the oldest retained drive.

5. Implement a log of which media has been used and maintain this log religiously so that another person can take over where you left off, if necessary the log also serves as a reference for when restoring files is required.

6. Ensure the backup software performs a verification of the backup job each time.  Periodically perform a test restore of a random batch of files to make sure the backup has been successful and don't rely solely on the backup software stating it has successfully secured the data.

7. Check the results of each backup to make sure it completed successfully and rectify any errors immediately.

8. For Microsoft Windows Servers ensure a 'System State' backup is taken regularly as this contains all of the configuration information for the server and is essential if the server has to be rebuilt from scratch.

9. If not already implemented, consider turning on 'Volume Shadow Copies' on a Microsoft Windows Server as this provides instant restore capabilities for the duration configured on the Volume Shadow Copy service.

10. Data backup systems covering critical data should be reviewed by a qualified IT Consultant and ideally monitored on an on-going basis.
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