World Backup Day Checklist: 6 Tasks for IT Teams to Complete
By Michele Hope
Digital data is the lifeblood of modern companies, which is why the majority of organizations invest time and money to back up their data. But is that enough to ensure trouble-free recovery in the wake of unexpected downtime event, data corruption or other disaster? Probably not. In honor of World Backup Day, IT teams should pledge to complete these six important backup-related tasks.
World Backup Day, which is celebrated on March 31 each year, encourages individuals and organizations to take the pledge to protect their data. The timing for this event - right before April Fool's Day - implies that those who do not back up their data risk becoming fools if disaster strikes.
While many organizations already have backup processes in place, there is still work to be done to ensure smooth sailing after a disruption or disaster. In honor of World Backup Day, IT teams should complete the following six tasks to improve their company's odds of successful backup and recovery:
1. Make Sure Backups Work
This may seem like Backup 101, but it's amazing how many organizations do not routinely check data backup sets to make sure they can be successfully restored. There are various issues that can foil an organization's attempts to restore data. Network connectivity to offsite disaster recovery (DR) is a sizable challenge, as are incomplete software patches and inaccurate configurations. Other data restore failures are caused by issues such as backups not operating correctly, backups not being current or backups not including key systems and devices.
For this reason, it pays to perform spot restores of key backup data sets, especially for mission-critical systems that cannot afford much - if any - downtime.
2. Review Backup and Disaster Recovery Plans
Is the organization missing anything? IT teams should revisit recovery plans for the company's most important applications. Is enough redundancy built in for a sudden hardware failure or software corruption? It is also important to plan for both big regional events, such as storms, and more localized events, such as user error, corruption or hardware failure.
As part of this process, IT teams should review recovery time and recovery point objectives established per application. Are these properly aligned to the organization's priorities? How confident is the team in its ability to achieve these objectives after a disaster? Using a third party can also help with audits or improving existing DR plans.
3. Get a Backup of the Backup
When it comes to DR, companies often benefit when they live by the adage that anything that can go wrong will go wrong. Despite the most detailed efforts imaginable, unforeseen events can still derail a well-laid DR plan. Power outages, downed networks or a cascading virus can make digital backup data and data stored in the cloud inaccessible or completely unusable.
This is where it pays to heed the advice of DR veterans who learned these lessons the hard way. Make another gold copy of backup data and protect it online and offsite, ideally in another geographic location. Tape is one popular way that organizations create this type of gold copy.
What's the best place to store a gold backup? In a humorous account on the Tao of Backup, the master tells his disciple to "scatter your backups to the four corners of the earth." Organizations do not have to go quite that far - regional laws may actually prevent it - but having separate backup copies at separate locations makes a lot of sense.
4. Schedule or Initiate Annual Plan Testing
World Backup Day is a good time to schedule an annual DR plan test. A 2015 TechTarget survey found that 28 percent of respondents did not routinely schedule DR plan testing, while 4 percent claimed to have never tested their plans. This task may seem a lot like the first suggestion of testing backups, but there is a lot more involved with testing a DR plan.
5. Brainstorm Scenarios and Incorporate Lessons Learned
While no one can fully predict all the nuances of a future disaster, IT teams can still prepare for one. First, they should brainstorm how they will react after certain events. Second, they should incorporate lessons learned from past events.
When it comes to brainstorming, teams should spend time thinking about the most likely events after which the business would have to recover data. This could be anything from a sudden power outage or hardware failure to a regional emergency. Once these scenarios are identified, consider how the business would fare if any of the events happened tomorrow.
Past downtime events, failures and DR tests often provide a wealth of information about what to do in future situations. Spend time capturing this wisdom and make sure it is incorporated in an updated backup or DR procedure.
6. Update Contact Lists
While this may be included in a DR plan, it is important enough to call out on its own. Contact lists must be updated to reflect the latest IT staff and the best way to contact each member in an emergency. In the case of DR, it is also good to plan for alternate forms of communication - digital contact lists may not be accessible due to power or network outages, dead phone batteries or other unforeseen setbacks.
While not an exhaustive to-do list, these steps will help increase an organization's chances for a smooth, trouble-free recovery.
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