Recently one of my clients asked me if it was ok to try to restore a file on his system to make sure the backups are working properly. What surprised me most about his question was that he even had to ask! Testing your backups are probably one of the most important things you can do to protect your digital content, other than the backups themselves. It's not surprising that many small businesses neglect to test their backups. It really does't matter what kind of backups you are doing - testing your backups will give you the confidence that your data is ready in case of a digital disaster. There are many things that can go wrong with your backups, and they can fail through no fault of your own - here are just a few:
Backup software failure
- Sometimes your backup software will fail for one reason or another and stops performing backups according to whatever schedule you may have setup. You can't always rely on the software to tell you when things go wrong. from personal experience, there was a problem with the tape backup system where the tapes would no longer record properly, even though the "verify" option was set. Here's a story you may not have heard - Pixar animation studios tells the story
of how a bad backup nearly meant the non-existence of Toy Story 2. In fact, if it wasn't for an impromptu, unplanned backup copy of the movie that was taken home, the movie may never have existed.
Incomplete data or improper file selection
- When you setup your backup software, did you take the steps to ensure you have specified the most important files to be included in your backup? Your backup software cannot read your mind - many times it will make assumptions about where your most important data is stored, but sometimes you may store your documents somewhere in your "My Documents" folder, but your QuickBooks accounting file may be stored in "C:\Quickbooks" which would not be included with the backup! Unless you override the default selection, you would never be backing up one of your most important set of financial records. One of my clients called about an important file that needed to be restored but he could not locate it on the backups. They backup all of their files stored on the server, but this file was stored locally on his own workstation and not stored back to the server and we were not able to recover the file.
Incorrect software version
- depending on the type of media you are using for backups, you need to make sure you still have the right version of the software available to restore from old media. If you happened to upgrade your system and/or your backup software, sometimes the new versions are not compatible with your old media. if you have old media that contains important files, make sure you consider software compatibility before you perform any upgrades, or restore those files to a temporary location so they can be backed up again with the newer software.
- do you know your encryption or account password? Even back when using tape backups, an encryption key may have been used to safeguard the data stored on the tape. How long ago was it that you setup the system? Do you still remember the password if you need to restore from a tape? Backing up to a hard drive or an online service requires a password to be setup when you perform the initial installation to secure your data at the destination. Most times you don't need your password if you run the software at your own desktop computer since the password is already programmed in. What happens if you have a total system failure and need to re-install that software - will you know the password? The Macbook for one of my clients would no longer boot-up. She took it to the Apple store where they performed their magic and reset the system to its factory defaults, then called me and asked "You have my data right...?" followed by my response "You know your password right...?" Thankfully she did and we were able to perform a full recovery but things may not have ended so well if she didn't. If you don't remember your password, now is the time to set it to something new. You may loose previous backup data stored with the old encryption key, but new backups from this point forward will be able to be restored.
These are just a few things that can go wrong. The only way to tell if your backups are working correctly is to actually perform a restore. Dig out those old tapes and see if you can complete a restore. Backing up to a thumb drive? Take a look - is your data there? Can you copy it off back to your hard drive? Using an online service? Choose a document file, something important and pull it back from the cloud and make sure you can open it. Even better - if you use an online backup service, do you have the ability to perform an online restore without using their special software? This is especially important, since it not only tests your ability to perform a restore, but it also makes sure you remember your password.
If you feel testing your backup is unnecessary, just think about how comfortable you would feel about erasing your entire hard drive and restoring from backup just for giggles? You would probably not be nearly as confident. Whatever software or service you are using, it must be tested.
I have such a passion about backups and recovery that I started a service helping businesses with their backup solutions. If you need any assistance with your backup solution, need help testing your restore or want to know more about backup best practices for your business please give us a call. Even though I run my own cloud based backup service for business, give us a call - our solution may not be the best for you but at least we can help you restore the confidence in whatever backup solution you are using, or get you started with South Jersey CrashPlan
if our service is right for you. Consultation is always free.
Happy technology - stay safe my friends!
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