I recently got to write a fun piece for InfoWorld called "Stupid user tricks" about protecting your network from human error. Researching the article revealed to me how many variables folks tend to miss when running a network, as well as when planning to protect and recover that network. (By the way, if you were one of the folks who submitted anecdotes for this article, check out the SMB IT blog to see whether you’re on the list for a free InfoWorld backpack.)
I suppose some of the errors I encountered while researching the article are more surprising to us consultant types because we live and breathe best practices. We live it, we breathe it, we get to install and bill for it, and then we get to walk away and do it all someplace else. Day-to-day systems administrators live and breathe a just-get-it-done philosophy, and they can’t walk away.
So in that spirit, I’ve condensed some of the disaster-recovery best practices into a top six list for this week’s column. (I ran out of space here before I could fit a top 10, but check the SMB IT blog for a few more entries.) Make sure you’ve got these six points covered, and you’re much more likely to survive not only stupid human tricks but any kind of network disaster curveball Lady Fate may decide to pitch your way.
1. Test your backups.
This is first because it was by far the most popular entry. Someone installs a tape drive setup, installs the backup software, and schedules daily, weekly, monthly backups. Something happens a year later, and it turns out nothing’s actually been running. Backups are boring, I know. Not to mention mind-crushingly tedious. But if you don’t have them when you need them, you’re done. So do a test backup and restore after installing a new backup system. Then -- and this is critical, not optional -- do a test restore every week. That’s right: every week. Not the whole tape, just a specific subset of folders. Shouldn’t take more than 15 minutes, and it can save your professional career in a crisis. Just do it.
2. Spend a little money on your backup software.
Don’t just buy Bob’s Basic Backup package because it’s cheap or came with the tape drive. Spend some bucks here. Make sure the thing can support dynamic backups; also ensure that it can support individual folder and file restores. Take a step back and think about investing in a disk-heavy server to act as a disk-based backup between the tape drive and the network. Many of the better packages, including those from CA, IBM/Tivoli, and Veritas can manage this NAS-type device as well as the backup, which means not only safer data but much faster restore times. And the cost really isn’t that huge.
3. Store a weekly copy off-site.