Real SMB IT; 4 Weeks To A Better Backup Rotation

March 17, 2009

As a smaller SME business owner or manager, I am sure that you understand the need to ensure that your key data is being backed up religiously.

If you are like most smaller businesses, your standard backups will be made to standard tape backup drives.

Tape Drive

Tape Drive

So, Do You Have A Tape Rotation Plan?

Ask yourself where those tapes are. Are they all sitting in one place right beside the server tape drive?

And ask your self how many tapes there are. Are there only a couple that get reused each day?

Why Ask these questions?

If a pipe bursts and sprays water all over your server and tapes. Can you recover?

If your CFO finished her budget numbers last Friday before flying out for that week long conference.And those numbers had been accidentally deleted during her absence, could you still recover it after one week? 

Or how about two weeks? 

Or did this Fridays tape backup overwrite last  Fridays tape backup, killing any hope of recovering those numbers?

Tape Rotation

Ensure that you have an explicit tape rotation plan that includes at least a portion of those tapes being stored off site. The number and amount may be dependent on the value of your data, but that will be another post.

At the very least look at a relatively simple rotation that still gives you the following benefits.

* The ability to restore daily data every day for one week

* The ability to restore weekly data every week for one month

* The ability to restore monthly data for one year (or more)

This a simple rotation suitable for smaller businesses.

Simply ensure that you have four weeks of tape media (ie weeks 1 through 4)

Label your tapes daily, (IE Monday Week 1) 

Every Friday, ensure that you rotate that tape off site, It could be a safety deposit box, or what ever you have access to. And return the next Fridays tape.

On the final Friday of the month, rotate that tape off site and replace it. Leave it off site.

Sure, those tapes can seem expensive, but they are a lot less expensive than your business!

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2 Responses to “Real SMB IT; 4 Weeks To A Better Backup Rotation”

  1. elliotross Says:

    @John, thanks for dropping by.

    With discovery, security, archival – it is no wonder backing up data can quickly become a full time job.

    Thank you for the archive advice!


  2. John Borwick Says:

    A few years ago at a “LISA” conference (for systems administrators) I heard a good explanation of the difference between a *backup* and an *archive*.

    A backup lets you get to the last known good point in time before a disaster. For example, a disk crashes, or even the water issue you cite where some of your tapes have gone bad.

    An *archive* lets you see where you were at a given point in time. For example, keeping a weekly archive for a month, then a monthly archive for a quarter, then a quarterly archive for a year allows you to find a point in time each quarter, for the last couple of months, or for the last few weeks.

    Just make sure your archive is structured to be an ARCHIVE and not just a backup. For example archives need to anticipate different versions of software, e.g. you’re running Oracle 10g now but maybe you’ll have Oracle 12 ?? by the time you need to restore. So make an export not a binary backup.

    Also keep in mind that all backups are legally discoverable in court. If you have the tapes, it should be relatively easy to restore and read the data. If not, don’t keep the tapes–you can be required to spend $100,000s on paying services to read your data if you are required to produce the data and you haven’t planned on actually reading the data.

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