Determine Your Backup Process
ARTICLE DATE: 02.08.08 PC Magazine
There are nearly as many ways to back up your business data as there are ways to lose the data and require that backup. Products available to perform archiving duties range from the venerable tape backup to newer technologies such as hard drive, CD, and DVD, or even remote storage facilities. No matter which you select, the principles of data backup are the same, and it's important to understand which data needs to get backed up, how often, and for how long.
The first step is pure common sense, yet it is frequently skipped: Conduct a thorough analysis and inventory of existing systems with a focus on data storage. It will be tedious, but you need to catalog the location, owner, and importance of each bit of data.
The alternative is to back up everything, wasting time by writing extraneous files and wasting money on extra media. That "total backup solution" is what a lot of so-called experts advise, probably because they take advice from companies looking to sell more tapes. But you may not have to do it.
A good place to start is simply by listing the directories on each server or storage device in a spreadsheet and then adding columns for the type of data in that directory (the content, not the file type"Contracts" or "Bookmarks," not DOC or XLS), the owner (who would care if the files were deleted), and whether they are essential to your business. In a more complex environmentfor example, an online business that has no off-hoursadd another column for a time when no one is using the file and it can be backed up.
This brings up an interesting question: What is essential to your business? For a simple answer, ask yourself, "If I lose that file, could I lose money?" Note that the question is could rather than would; this casts a wider netbetter safe than sorry. Next consider your backup schedule; there's a whole theory and science to backup rotations.
There are three common methods. A full backup includes all files whether they have been changed or not; differential includes all files changed since the last full backup; and incremental includes only those files that have changed since the last backup of any kind. Beyond that, here's some sound, basic advice for proper business backup.
Save your backups for longer than you think you have tosomething unexpected always comes up. (Why is it still unexpected? No one knows.) I tend to use an adapted version of Grandfather-Father-Son: I call every third Grandfather an archive and don't overwrite it.
Test Your Backups
As a fail-safe, at least once a month, you should select a few files at random and restore them, making sure not to overwrite newer versions. Then open the files and confirm that they are intact and usable. If you find that they aren't, you have time to address the problem before an emergency arises. Make sure that you do so.
Always Keep Some Sort of Backup Off Site