Backup and Recovery Tip: Test. Test. Test.

May 8, 2015

Testing your organization’s data backups is the first real step toward implementing a secure and effective backup and recovery plan. It is an extremely important way to identify critical flaws in disaster recovery and maintain business continuity.  Despite the amount of hours and effort your organization devotes to backing up data, it will mean very little unless your backups are tested on a regular basis. If you cannot restore your files from a backup, it’s not effective.

To ensure that backups are protecting you, periodically test the backup jobs by attempting to restore them to an alternate location. The point of testing your organization’s backup and recovery plan is to bring out any flaws or corrupt data before it is too late.

Here are four things you need to know in order to ensure that your files are being backup adequately and your organization is prepared for disaster:

Prepare your staff for disaster.

Not only will data recovery testing identify issues or changes in your backup environment, but it will allow your staff to become familiar with the backup and recovery plan in a non-crisis setting.  In the event of a disaster, you also want confirm that everyone is familiar with the recovery process so that your data can be restored as quickly and smoothly as possible.

Identify what should be tested.

Every critical application should be tested regularly, if not on every test. This information can be entered into the list of items that need to be backed up which provides the system with a way to identify items for the testing restore list. The list of items to be submitted to testing restore should include a plan that identifies testing frequency and the specific mode of testing.

Test your backups on a regular basis.

The frequency of your tests depend on a number of factors such as the file size, changes in the backup environment, and size of the info structure. Simple backups should be tested much more frequently — at least once a quarter and whenever there is a major hardware or software change to your backup system. Larger, more complex backups, that have the ability to affect the current business operations, should be conducted no more than twice a year.

Never assume things will go as planned.

When conducting an actual test, it is wise to remember Murphy’s Law: “Anything that can go wrong, will go wrong.” Be prepared for any mishaps by keeping an updated staff directory list on hand in case a serious system fail occurs. Also be sure to document any errors you encounter and how they were resolved so that they won’t be such a surprise the next time a test is performed.

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