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Computer Data Backups: Test Now or Cry Later

by: Joshua Feinberg

If you’re like most small business owners, your computer data backups are one of those things that you rarely pay attention to. Computer data backups are kind of like flossing your teeth and eating low-fat, high-fiber foods… everyone knows what they’re supposed to do… but how many REALLY do these things religiously?!?

Unfortunately when it comes to your computer data backups however, complacency can be very dangerous. Of course, it’s always a good idea to have a local computer service company that you can rely on for advice on selecting and maintaining your computer data backups. But, unless you’re prepared to put a full-time PC support person on your company’s payroll, it’s really important that you get some basic understanding of the major issues with computer data backups.

So here’s a compilation of some really crucial tips on computer data backups that I’ve put together, after nearly 15 years of helping small businesses protect their valuable computer data files.

Test your computer data backups regularly and monitor their log files.

To be effective, computer data backups must be highly automated to ensure that jobs are launched consistently and correctly, but your computer data backup system also needs to be watched over diligently to make sure it continues to function reliably.

Unfortunately, monitoring the computer data backup system generally isn’t a priority until something goes wrong. By then it’s too late…. Like the article title says, “Test Now or Cry Later!”

People have a strong tendency with a computer data backup system to set it and forget it. Automation clearly has many benefits, but a totally hands-off approach can be very dangerous if no one is overseeing your computer data backup process.

Test and Then Test Again: VERY Important with Computer Data Backup Systems

With any newly installed computer data backup system, don't assume everything works correctly right out of the box. Even more important, don't take for granted that your backup system will continue working indefinitely. You need periodically to restore some folders and files from your backup media to validate that your computer data backup system still works.

If your automated computer data backup routine is configured to include a verify run with each backup job, testing a sample restore job monthly should be adequate. However, if you have an extremely low tolerance for risk, you may want to simulate a sample restore job once a week.

The Hazard of Moving Parts and Open Design with Computer Backup Systems

Why do you need to take these precautions if you’re purchasing a reliable, business-class computer data backup system to start with? Typically, a tape drive or other backup device is one of the few components in a PC or server that still have moving parts.

As a result, it’s more prone to mechanical failure. In addition, because a backup device generally is open, as opposed to the sealed design of a hard drive, it’s easy for the inside of the computer data backup system device to attract a significant dust buildup in a relatively short period of time.


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