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Don't overlook the basics in backing up business data

Over the years, I've authored a number of articles detailing the importance of maintaining regular backups of a company's important business data. Indeed, the subject is one that has been discussed at length in the popular media, as well as in publications specific to the I.T. industry. It's unlikely that today's tech-savvy decision makers don't have data archiving at the top of their I.T. priority lists.

That said, it's worthwhile to revisit aspects of the data archiving process that can, unfortunately, go overlooked from time to time. One particularly problematic aspect of the process is delegating to an employee the responsibility of rotating your storage media, verifying the integrity of your backups at routine intervals and taking backup media off-site to a secure storage location. While these tasks may seem routine enough, this is a very important responsibility to undertake, and even a momentary lapse in judgment can have disastrous results.

For starters, the individual responsible for your backups must ensure that your storage media is being rotated according to schedule. Backup software can be finicky at times, and if the wrong day's tape has been inserted into the driveor if the previous day's tape has been left inthere is a chance your backup job will not complete properly. These most simple errors often have chain reaction-like consequences that ultimately require the entire backup job to be reconfigured.

Verifying the integrity of your backups is another crucial procedure in maintaining a reliable data archive. Simply checking the backup software's log to confirm that a job was successful isn't enough. The restoration of data from your backup media should be a regularly-scheduled maintenance task for your company. Only through the successful retrieval of critical data will you know that the data you are archiving has maintained its integrity and can thus be deployed at a moment's notice should disaster strike.

The restoration of archived data can be a complex process and is best left to your I.T. department or professional solutions provider. So-called sterile environments can be created so that the restoration of archived data does not overwrite or otherwise interfere with your company's working data.

Rotating your backup media to an off-site location is perhaps the most critical aspect of routine data archiving procedures. Don't assume your media will be safely tucked away in a closet or drawer. Insist that your staff or I.T. professionals take your media off-site to ensure complete and total data protection. Should the unthinkable happen, getting back up and running will be much, much easier with the assistance of a secure data archive stored off-site. This off-site backup will have escaped whatever catastrophe interrupted the flow of your normal operations and can be deployed wherever you set up shop and resume your operations.

I realize that these procedures may seem routine to regular readers and I.T. professionals, but they are nevertheless essential to maintaining data integrity and proper backup storage. After all, you've made a considerable investment to allow your organization to make routine backups of your critical data, and it'd be a shame if your time and money were lost to a lack of planning or careless execution of crucial backup procedures. I've seen it happen far too many times, and I don't want to see it happen to you.

- Jeff Facer is owner and CEO of Area-Wide Technologies in Champaign. He can be reached at (217) 359-8041 or jfacer@areawidetech.com.

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