Atlantic.Net Blog

Why Is It Important to Test Backups?

Adnan Raja
by Atlantic.Net (181posts) under HIPAA Disaster Recovery
0 Comments

There’s nothing more valuable in an organization’s war chest than its data. Both present and future business decisions are increasingly determined by data analytics. With data so valuable, it must be protected at all costs, which is why backup testing is such a pivotal process for any business.

When it comes to losing data, there’s a list as long as your arm on how it can be done, including:

  • Malicious attacks
  • Accidental deletion
  • Bugs in your software
  • Cloud security breach
  • Hardware failure

If one of these or another situation renders your data unusable or unreachable, your business’s fate hangs on the reliability of your backup systems. You should perform backup testing often to ensure that this system of paramount importance works smoothly and correctly regardless of the circumstances.

Know the risks

Let’s say the same team that installed your infrastructure created a backup, restore, and recovery process. Your infrastructure has never had any problems, so you believe the same holds true for the backup system. But that is faulty logic. If you don’t perform backup and restore testing you will never know if:

  1. The process actually works
  2. How long it takes to restore your system to working order
  3. What minor bugs might occur during the process that can be easily fixed

What should a backup testing strategy look like?

While actual steps will vary by organization, there are backup testing best practices that apply universally. All backup testing procedures should be automated so they do not pull away human resources from their day-to-day tasks. These automated processes should including backup and restore testing to:

  • Virtual machines
  • Applications
  • Databases
  • Individual files

Once the backup testing is complete, all the previously-mentioned items should have automated tests run against them to ensure the data appears as it should.

How often should backup testing take place?

In a perfect world, you would run backup and recovery testing every time your system completed a backup. However, this is seldom a practical answer based solely on time constraints and your company’s allowance of resources. However, backup testing procedures need to happen on a regular basis to ensure not only that the process actually works, but also that it can handle more and more data as your business grows.

Instead of your infrastructure, let’s use the example of a pickup truck. You buy it new and use it every weekend to haul 200 pounds of bricks to a construction site. Every 3,000 miles you get the oil changed and the tires rotated, and the truck gets the same gas mileage on every trip. But what happens when you start hauling 500 pounds of brick instead? Or you forget to take the truck in for service for a few extra weeks? The more strain you put on its systems without proper maintenance and testing, the more likely it is to start struggling to perform, until it breaks down on you.

Backup testing best practices dictate that you set up a dedicated schedule for your data. Everywhere it is and everything it touches needs to be tested on a weekly or monthly basis that does not waver. If you can automate these backup testing procedures, you can have them run in the dead of night or on the weekend when your employees are not interacting with the system.

It can’t just be testing that your data is intact, you need to do recovery testing in case the worst should happen. Recovery testing is essential because if gives you a wealth of information on how long it will take to get back up and running in case of a disaster. Which sounds better after having your website knocked offline by a tornado: A note on social media sites that your system will be back online “soon”? Or one telling customers we’ve enacted our recovery processes and will be back online no later than 1 p.m. today?

Avoid these mistakes for better backup testing

When you do your testing, the end result is obviously important. But accuracy and timeliness hold equal importance when you’re doing backup and recovery testing. If it takes your system 48 hours to get back to full functionality, that’s not a realistic time frame to keep your clients from jumping ship in droves. If you test your data across every application and find little glitches here and there that must be fixed by individual users, you need to figure out what’s causing them immediately and have it rectified before your next test run. In a system as complex as a business’s infrastructure, little glitches never stay little for long. In short, you have to be prepared to scrap your backup, restore, and recovery plans if they are not sufficient for your company goals.

For help with backup and recovery plans for your organization’s data, contact Atlantic.Net today and learn more about our HIPAA compliant disaster recovery services.

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