Best Practices: Backup and Recovery Strategies

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Tips for Taking the Backache Out of Backup

As your business increasingly relies on data, backing up that data becomes even more important but also more complex. The effort can be grueling (and costly) if you do not have a backup strategy that is based on proper planning and is faithfully executed according to a carefully crafted backup policy. Here's how to begin:

  • Decide what you need to back up. Start with your answer to "What can we afford to lose?"
  • Understand your data environment. Once you know what requires backing up, you'll need to determine the systems and hosts where it's located; what type of data it is; how often it needs to be backed up and how often it's likely to be retrieved/restored; how long it must be retained and in what form; how much time you have to complete the backup; and what kind of security the data requires. By ranking the importance of your data and eliminating the unnecessary data from your backup efforts, you can save storage space.
  • Find the backup techniques and technologies that best align with your business needs and that automate as much of your backup efforts as possible. For instance, it may be worthwhile to consolidate data on fewer servers to reduce backup management efforts. You may benefit from using backup/recovery solutions that are bundled with a storage appliance. Or perhaps you should opt to outsource backups entirely. Consult with an expert if you don't understand this process.
  • Craft the processes and procedures you'll need to ensure backups are completed properly, including assigning responsibility for getting backups accomplished and monitoring the effort to spot problems, while also ensuring that those responsible are sufficiently trained.
  • Ensure that backup copies are valid and can be successfully restored, which requires that you rank the importance of your data and establish ways that the most important data is backed up first and restored first. Be sure that you have adequate time to back up all the data that's important to your business, and be sure to understand the time required to restore that data in case of loss or corruption. You'll also need to regularly check and test your equipment, media, and processes.
  • Ensure that backup copies are safe. Generally, this means storing your backups in a logically and physically secured offsite location. It also means ensuring that you haven't backed up viruses and other malware, spam, and data that is not important or that is harmful to your business.
  • Maintain backup logs so you -- and your auditors -- can track backup activities.
  • Regularly revisit your backup/restore risks, procedures, and technologies to make sure they are adequate as business needs and conditions evolve.
  • Dispose of backup media carefully, making sure that they are physically destroyed so that their contents cannot be read by the unauthorized.

Of course, the backup technologies you use depend greatly on the size and nature of your business and how it uses information. Below are some newer technologies that may be able to help ease your backup burdens.

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