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Home  /  geekspeak  /  When was the last time you tested your backups?

When was the last time you tested your backups?

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Don’t wait until your business suffers a disaster to discover that your backup files are useless. If you don’t make regular backups of your critical data then you could be out of business at any moment.

Forget fire, flood and theft, something as simple as a power surge or burst water pipe could wipe out your computers and onsite server room. Some businesses never open their doors again after a catastrophic data loss.

These days most businesses appreciate the need to protect their important data, such as financial records. It’s vital that you regularly test the integrity of your backups and the restoration process to ensure that everything runs smoothly in the event of an emergency.

You also need to keep offsite backups as an insurance policy, lest fire destroy your entire building.

Missing or corrupt backup files are one of the main culprits when it comes to failed disaster recovery.

You need to regularly check that your backup system is running smoothly. For example, some Network Attached Storage drives don’t automatically reboot after a power outage, so if there’s a blackout and you forget to turn on the NAS again then your backups won’t run. Alternatively a corrupt hard drive or networking error could stop your backups from running.

If you’re backing up to the cloud, networking errors can also cause trouble. Meanwhile if your account hasn’t been paid, perhaps due to something simple like a billing error or banking screw up, then your backups might not be running as they should be. Alternatively your backups might stop running if you exceed your data storage limit.

Whether you’re backing up to tape, disc, removable storage or the cloud, it’s important to regularly test the integrity of those backup files. They might look fine at a glance. You need to recreate the entire disaster recovery process, on a separate computer, to ensure that you can get the business up and running again from those backup files.

You should test your backup system after any major software upgrade. It’s possible that the new version of your accounting software can’t restore from old backups, in which case you’ll need to look for conversion tools (and test them thoroughly) or else back up everything again.

If the new version of the software stores your data in a different format, or saves that data in a different location on your computer, then you might need to adjust your backup systems to allow for this.

If your computers are lost to a disaster and you need to rebuild from scratch, you probably won’t be able to access your accounting data until you install your accounting software on a new computer.

Make sure you allow for this in your disaster recovery plan. Ensure you have copies of installer discs and licence keys at hand (stored safely offsite) so you can get up and running again. It’s worth reading the fine print in the licensing agreement to see what your rights are in terms of installing your software on multiple computers.

When preparing for a disaster you also need to plan for the fact that your regular IT staff might not be available to assist. Make sure the passwords to your cloud storage service and/or encrypted backups aren’t lost in the disaster. Some cloud storage services let you specify your own encryption key, so not even they can read your data. While this sounds tempting from a security perspective, is the thought of losing all that data worse than the thought of it falling into the wrong hands?

A thorough backup regime isn’t a set ‘n’ forget process. Your disaster recovery efforts could become yet another disaster if you don’t regularly check that your backup system is running smoothly.

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About Author

David Hancock

David Hancock is the founder and managing director of Geeks2U, a national on-site computer repair and support company.

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