Guy’s Best Practice and Litmus Test – Ezine #4
Contents for Ezine #4
Have you ever had that sinking feeling, you have just lost hours of work. What make you feel worse is you know there is no backup? Then make a new year’s resolution to check not only that your backups are scheduled, but also that the restore will actually work.
Here are three best practice ‘Litmus Tests’.
a) Home Use
Professionals Backup to CD and store them away from the computer
Amateurs Backup to floppy and leave the disk in the drive
b) Small Business
Professionals Backup to tape and store the tapes off site
Amateurs Backup to CD and leave the CD in the drive.
c) Big Business
Professionals hire space with a specialist company, so if the worst came to the worst, they can take their tapes to a replica machine at another site.
Amateurs Backup to another machine in the same room.
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No matter if you are a big organisation or a one man band, 35% of all backups do not do what you expect. Note that this is subtly different from saying that 35% of backups fail. In fact, it is only when you try a restore that problems emerge from the woodwork. This figure of 35% is not my figure; in fact I did not believe the figure was so high, so I did a little research. Sure enough report after report came up with the same level of restore failures.
Here are four horror stories which illustrate what can go wrong.
Case A. The nervous operator.
The boss buys a box of tapes and shows the timid assistant how to insert the first tape into the drive. On the first day backup worked brilliantly. But unfortunately, on the second day the operator could not eject the tape. While the operator was to shy to ask her aggressive boss, she was resourceful and got out the Tippex. You have guessed what happened next, they wrote today’s date on the label and repeated the Tippex trick every day. Guess what happened when the boss wanted to restore last weeks data? Yes, there was an almighty outburst when he got yesterday’s incremental backup and no full backups in sight.
Case B. The ‘Rambo’ operator
Here we have a case of a new young strapping lad wishing to make a favourable impression. Our new lad found that the backup tape was reluctant to eject. No problem to our young Rambo – he ripped the tape out, drive and all! At least with Rambo you knew you had a problem, so many of the backup / restore faults only show up when the disaster strikes.
Case C. Backing up the wrong folder or the wrong drive
Backup does its job perfectly. It is just that the important files were moved to a new folder. Carelessly, the new folder was not included in path for the backup job. A variation of this problem is still backing up the old server when you have moved all the data to the new server!
Case D. Hardware incompatibility
When you try a restore on a different machine, the tape is incompatible with the newer tape drive hardware.
Manufacturers are always keen to make improvements and tape drive companies are no different. What sometimes happens is that in a desire to backup faster, they sacrifice compatibility with older models. So tapes backed up by one model will not restore on a newer version.
There are only two types of users, those (like me) who have lost data, or those who are going to lose data. We recognise that backup is unlikely to be the highlight of our week; nevertheless backup is a crucial process as the alternative of recreating all that data is just too hard to bear. In case you are wondering – yes I have overhauled my own backup strategy!
Whether you use Microsoft’s built-in backup or a third program like BackupExec, there are a surprising number of options. Look out for the System State option, this will ensure that the registry, boot files and sysvol are backed up. See more on System State.
Where ever possible, always select ‘Normal’ backup, my reasoning is that when it comes to a restore you only need one tape. While the incremental and differential backups are much quicker, they double or treble your problems when it comes to restore.
Always select ‘Verify’, its well worth the extra time takes to be sure that the backup data is identical to the original setting. The situation it that Verify is on by default, and I would leave the tick in the box.
Many of us like to check the Tools and Options menus, beware excluding a file type that is vital for your program. .For each choice means there is potential to make a mistake; for example, you select the option to backup once instead of the option to backup weekly.
Professionals take the time to test a restore.
Amateurs trust in fate and assume there will be no problem.
There is one sure way of testing that all your settings are correct and that is to try a restore on another machine. One of the best features of restore is the ability to select a different destination, that way you can check without compromising existing data.
Volume Shadow Copy is one of the best new features of XP and Windows Server 2003. Thanks to Volume Shadow Copy, Microsoft’s own backup program will at last backup open files. In Windows 2000 and NT 4.0 every event log had at least one message to say ‘Failed to backup xyz files because they were in use’. In other words, open files were not being backed up with disastrous consequences. By default, Volume Shadow Copy is enabled; make sure you understand the logic before you ever check the Disable Volume Shadow Copy box. See here for other uses of Volume Shadow Copy.
Lots of useful disk and file articles