Database Backup Strategies

It's not always enough to just make a backup. You need to ensure that the backup is available to you in case of an emergency. These strategies will help you to determine the best way to keep your backups organized, safe and available.

Carry it with you

This particular method of keeping a backup copy with you at all times is one of the easiest and cheapest methods of keeping your data safe.  All it requires is two or more external drives.  Here's the process:

  1. Purchase two (or more) portable USB drives.  These could be small flash drives or full size external hard drives - that choice will be yours.  Just make sure that they are large enough for all of the data you'll need to backup.  (Most ESC databases are under 10GB, but the size of the drives you'll need will be determined by how much data you're backing up from the server altogether.)
  2. Plug External Drive #1 into your server computer.
  3. Schedule your backups to run every night.  This doesn't mean just ESC, this also means to schedule backups of all other programs that handle your important data.  Windows will even allow you to schedule a backup of the entire computer to ensure that nothing gets missed or lost. Make sure that your backups are being made to the external drive and not a local directory.
  4. When you arrive at the office, unplug External Drive #1 and plug in External Drive #2.  Carry External Drive #1 with you when you leave.  This will ensure that your data is out of the office should catastrophe strike. While you have External Drive #1 with you, the server will be making new backups to External Drive #2.
  5. The next day, when you return to the office, you'll unplug External Drive #2 and carry that one with you.  You'll plug in External Drive #1 and allow the latest backups to be recorded there.
  6. Lather, Rinse, Repeat.

There are a few downsides to this method.  One of which is that this method would require perfect attendance; which isn't likely in anyone's case.  Having more than two drives could help out in this situation though.  If the Keeper of the Backups calls out sick, someone else could plug in E.D. #3 and carry home the most current backups.  There's also a more obvious downside: having to carry the drives around.  Most people don't want to have to physically carry a drive with them as they come and go.  There have also been instances in which the drives were stolen from homes and vehicles - providing some random person with an entire backup of your company data. 

But fear not, there are other options.

Store it in the Cloud

There are plenty of Cloud backup services such as CrashPlan, Carbonite and Mozy - to name just a few - whose primary function is to keep your data safe and sound.  The process may differ slightly depending on which service you choose.  

  1. Most services will allow you to select a group of directories to backup and a time - or set of times - in which the backups will occur.
  2. Setup an automatic backup of your ESC database to occur an hour before your Cloud backup service will run.  Make sure the directory that ESC is backing up to is included in the Cloud backup.

While there isn't much involved in this process, you do want to make sure you check your Cloud backups periodically to make sure that everything appears in order and all of the necessary data is being included.  It's also a good idea to go through the restore routine a few times a year to make sure you understand how to do it and that it works as expected.

The obvious turn-off with this option for most people will be the fact that their data is in the Cloud.  This tends to frighten people a bit.  However, keeping the data in a physical location leaves it just as vulnerable as it would be in the Cloud.  A physical drive can easily be dropped and broken, stolen, or simply fail.  Whereas storing your data in the Cloud has a few more pros than cons, such as availability, digital security and automation.

Other options

While the above strategies are, by far, the best bang for your buck, there are other options available as well.  There are devices that you can buy and connect to your network that will automatically backup the files of all machines on your network, but if that drive remains in the same office as the machines it is securing, then it is at risk as much as those machines.  

Some offices are still utilizing Tape or Zip drives for their backup systems; and they are comfortable with this because it works.  But these systems are quickly becoming outdated and the hardware is difficult to replace.  Not to mention that many organizations no longer have compatible hardware for reading your data off of a tape.  If you're backing up to a Tape or Zip drive system, it's time to think about upgrading.

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