Backup Best Practices - Testing Your Backups | TechMikeNY



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Your Backup Isn’t Your Backup Until it is Tested — Tips for Testing Your Backups


We all know the importance of backups.  We’ve all had that friend, relative – or possibly even ourselves (in a fleeting moment of tech-savvy failure) – lapse on the backups of their data only to then find that everything is gone to the digital graveyard.

You may feel that you are now covered in the backup department – whether you use a USB external drive, cloud subscriptions, or a combination of tools – but the truth is your backup is not truly reliable until it has been tested. 

In this post, we’ll cover some backup schedule “Best Practices,” as well as some tips for testing your backup.

Fun Fact: There is a World Backup Day.  Yes, really.  And it happens every March 31st

Backup Best Practices

  • Schedule your backups. Whether it’s hourly, daily, or even weekly, have a set schedule for when the Backups are initiated.  Randomness is the enemy of consistency, and backups demand consistency to be reliable.  Virtually all backup applications allow for regular scheduling. 
  • Don’t forget to document Your backup workflow. And then include that document in the backup!  What gut-wrenching irony to have textbook redundancy in place, but then not have the instructions documented to restore the backup.  Document your Backup Plan, so there is no mystery how to restore your data if the time comes.
  • Follow the “3-2-1” Backup Rule. This is considered the benchmark standard for backups and breaks down like so:
    • 3 = Three Copies of the Data. In other words, only one external USB drive is not sufficient.
    • 2 = Two Types of Storage Media. For example, a RAID backup in a server would count as one type of media; then, an external hard drive would count as another.
    • 1 = One Backup Should be Remote. You can have endless backup disks on-site, but what if something cataclysmic happens to that physical location?  You need to have one of your backups be in a different physical place.
 Did You Know?  The 3-2-1 Backup Rule was developed and proselytized not by an IT professional, but by Peter Krogh, a commercial photographer.  He wanted to create a methodology for digital photographers to back up their images. 

Testing Your Backup

Backup testing is also considered a Best Practice and an integral part of a comprehensive backup plan. If you never actually try to restore a file, application, or even an OS image, then how do you know you will be able to when you need it? 

Hot Grammar Tip!  ‘Backup’ – when used as a noun or an adjective – is one word, .e.g., “Always test your backups.”  When used as a verb, e.g., “We need to back up our data,” it is two words. 
  • At a minimum, spot-check selected files from the backup. You could be backing-up corrupted files, and you would never know it until you found yourself trying to recover that corrupted data. 
  • Confirm the backup software is licensed and installed on the new media or system you plan to restore. For this backup best practice, it can be especially pertinent to tape backups (tape as a backup medium is being phased out, but some legacy applications and systems still utilize them).
  • Prepare for restoring to a different system. For example, if your primary backup runs on an older generation server, but you intend to restore the backup to a more recent model.  How do you know that there aren’t compatibility pitfalls? 
  • If you want to be really sure, perform a full restore. While this can be time-consuming, run a full backup test.  You can either restore to the device that is intended to serve as your dedicated device for restorations; or if your OS runs off a single drive, you can install a new drive in your device and then restore the current drive to that new drive (then the previous primary drive can then serve as your new backup drives).    

Lastly, you may consider how far back you want your backup to go.  The more snapshots of backups you have, the larger your backup files become, making it potentially harder to manage.  

If you ever have any questions on these topics, never hesitate to reach out to – our techs are on standby to help you!


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