December 7, 2016

Years ago data backups were great insurance in the case of a catastrophic hardware failure. However, the need to restore from those backups was relatively infrequent. Many folks would question the value of expensive data backup systems because it was insurance that was rarely or never needed. Those days are long gone. In today’s world, data is at risk at all times and the risks are many. Data can be easily lost by the multitude of virus attacks that destroy your data or lock it up for a ransom. Companies are quickly becoming paperless and are making their electronic corporate documents accessible to their entire employee base. The more users you have accessing these systems, the more mistakes you will experience. Mistakes like unintentional deletions and overwrites; and the famous unintended drag and drop are a daily occurrence. Weekly (if not daily) restoration of files from data backup systems is now a quite frequent occurrence. Because of this, it is now more important than ever for every company to have a solid, commercial grade data backup solution.

Your data backup solution should first and foremost be easy to operate with as little user interaction as possible. Many a file has been lost because someone forgot to “change the tapes”. Your solution should support a robust retention policy so that you have several point in time copies to restore from. You don’t always know that your data has been lost or corrupted the day it occurs. Sometimes, this realization does not surface for days or weeks. So you need to be able to go back to that time period in order to recover a good copy of the data. A good solution will offer the ability to recover your files from a local device that resides within your corporate walls for faster recovery as well as the ability to store and restore from multiple copies offsite or in the cloud. If you have a virtualized environment, you should look for a solution that offers true virtualization support so that you can quickly restore an exact copy of your virtual machine. Reliability is a huge consideration. Your backup solution should not experience regular failures during normal operation. Failures on a daily or weekly basis is unacceptable to most companies.

There are many other things to consider in a complex environment. The above qualifications are a good start on the basics of a good commercial grade backup system. The reliable and robust systems available today are not inexpensive. However, when you consider the cost of recreating your lost data, you will inevitably find that it was money well spent.

Finally, make sure that you test restoring data from your backup system on a regular basis. A backup is worthless unless you can restore the data from it. Backup media (tapes and disk) go bad over time and with heavy usage. Even if your backup system has reported that the backup job was 100% successful, it is always good measure to test a restore from it on a regular basis.