Technology is moving forward faster than ever, but it's not always the case that the solutions of tomorrow are the best fit for the problems of today. In developing a rock-solid practice for data backup and recovery, the best answer is often a hybrid of new and old methods.

However, there is never really a definitive answer for all use cases - which is why policy review and process evaluation is so important and should be a regular part of any data management process.

In recent years, Google have gone on record for how they still make use of tapes to backup their Gmail data; and with the advent of powerful cloud computing so readily available there's no reason not to utilize it as part of your data backup plan.

Here at Process Street, we're a little obsessed with process efficiency, so we made this checklist as a way to securely and quickly employ best practices for backing up your client data.

Let's get started!


Record information about the routine backup

This should be a standard for any process involving sensitive customer data, as it provides a record of who was accessing the information, and when.

We've also included a few extra details for you to fill in that will help streamline the whole process - just complete the form fields below and you'll be ready to get started with the backup tasks.

Ensure that you have relevant access

This is fairly self-explanatory, but you must be certain that you will have access to the servers you need to back up.

This includes both physical and virtual access. As part of best practice protocol, you should be sure that you have access to all of the following physical items before starting the process:

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    Any necessary identification
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    Door keys
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    Padlock keys
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    Keys to locked server racks

Once you've gathered these items, it's time to make sure you have the proper user access rights to perform the backup:

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    Network admin username
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    Network admin password

Determine what kind of backup is needed

The exact type of backup needed will depend on how much and what kind of data needs to be backed up. Factors like how long since the last backup, and exactly what was backed up last time, will all come into play.

The backup could be:

  • A full backup (all files, data, configs, etc.)
  • A differential backup (all additions or changes since the last full backup)
  • An incremental backup (all additions or changes since the last full, differential or incremental backup)

Usually, a weekly routine will require a full backup, however, be sure to check the arrangements with your client if you are unsure.

Preventative measures:

Test recovery process

Just like making a claim on insurance, it's often true that you only really understand how good your backup process is when you run a test of one of the backed up images.

It follows that you should be checking your backups are working as part of a routine data recovery process!

There are a few things you can do here:

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    Take three of the most recent backup images
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    Load them all in sequence to validate they're all working

Once you've managed to successfully boot into the recovery images, you should perform separate tests to see how long it takes to access a single file or database. Record the average time over the tests in the form field below.

It's always important to consider how to improve a process. If you think that the current backup recovery process could be improved, declare so in the form field below.

Evaluate recovery process

You have identified a problem with the recovery process. Try backing up some new images and testing them again. It's important you try to understand the problem, as there could be many reasons why the process isn't working as you'd expect.

If there are problems with the test images, then you should perform extensive testing to get to the route of the problem. Ultimately you may have to consider changing your backup recovery process.

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    Test three more random backup samples
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    Perform backup troubleshooting to try and understand the problem
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    Consider recent changes to the system
  • 4
    Evaluate your current backup process

Once you've performed some tests and hopefully gained a clearer understanding of the problem, provide some feedback as to how you feel the recovery process could be improved in the form field below.

Make sure client is informed about backup recovery process

Unfortunately, some customers expect backups to work like magic, instantaneously reverting all of their system states to exactly how they were six months ago at the flip of a switch. Of course, that's not how it works.

Backup downtime is a real factor that has to be expected and planned for. Even with the developments in cloud computing backup solutions, clients should understand the reality of backup downtimes and make sure they have systems in place to deal with the fallout of extended downtime due to a backup or recovery process.

The first step is to talk to your client about this. Maybe you have already, but telling Jan Manager doesn't guarantee that Billy Salesforce will get the memo. It's good practice to make sure that information about backup downtime, as well as other important backup and data recovery protocol is readily available for all of your clients to access.

Since this should be a recurring process, part of that routine is to keep on top of these notices and make sure new information is updated and distributed. We've put all this into a few short sub-tasks:

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    Make sure client executives are directly informed about backup downtime
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    Provide client with an easily-shareable document covering all the bases
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    Make sure this document is up-to-date

You can even upload the data backup information document below:

Classify applications based on company necessity

This task may seem strange, but it's crucial in determining which application downtimes will be most impactful to normal company functioning.

It also goes hand-in-hand with making sure your client understands and has realistic expectations for the length of backup downtime.

You should already have a list of application downtime priority; your task here is to make sure that list is up-to-date and that any changes are made as necessary. This will involve talking to your client and clearly understand their priorities so that you can plan backup downtime accordingly.

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    Review the application downtime priority list
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    Append recently added applications
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    Remove unused or obsolete applications
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    Consult with client on the priority ordering

Backup process:

Backup data to local drive

On to the actual backup procedure.

Backups shouldn't just be stored in one place. This is the first of three steps you should take to make sure your backup process is solid and robust, and that if one system fails, there will be another backup there to take its place. 

The process for backing up your data on a local drive is as follows:

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    Make sure client is informed of expected down-time ahead of time
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    Backup data to local drive
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    Store backed-up drive in secure location
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    Update local backed-up drive inventory logs

You can use a variety of mediums to store data locally, and each have their benefits and drawbacks. Declare the medium used for the local backup in this form field:

Backup data to the cloud

Storing a backup copy of your client's data on the cloud can prove to be a life-saver in the event of a local accident or disaster such as damage to the property where the drives are stored, or even data theft and corruption due to old or faulty parts.

Make sure an exact copy of your data is backed up to the cloud-based database of your choice.

In the spirit of local backup recovery procedures, you should make an effort to test that the cloud-based recovery images are working as they should be. Follow the sub-tasks below to do just that.

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    Make sure client is informed of expected down-time ahead of time
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    Backup data to cloud-based data storage platform
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    Download three recently uploaded recovery images
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    Try and recover each of the images in succession

Backup data to a physical device in another location

The third and final part of the data backup best practice to ensure most robust fault-tolerance is to make sure that an exact copy your client's data is backed up and stored at a separate physical location to your primary local drives.

The method here can be the same as the local drive backup, or you might want to hedge your bets and go for an alternate local storage medium.

The important thing is, the medium is just as reliable, and the location just as secure. The steps for this one are pretty much the same, so go ahead and complete this sub-checklist.

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    Make sure client is informed of expected down-time ahead of time
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    Backup data to secondary local drive
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    Store backed-up drive in secure secondary location
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    Update secondary backup drive inventory logs

Backup report:

Send data backup report to client

Now that the process is all done, you have a complete report for this run of data backup.

All the fields you filled out whilst following this checklist have been automatically added to this useful email widget below, ready to fire off to your client to inform them of the most recent backup procedure.

Give it a look-over and make sure everything looks okay, and hit "Send".

Evaluate and modify your backup process

This one is a must. Times change, and technology along with it. Your backup process should reflect this and include measures for you to rapidly tweak and fine-tune your arsenal of solutions.

Consider whole data backup and recovery process - is there anything that could be improved upon? Are you aware of emerging solutions that seem to offer improvements on your current model?

Or, it may be the case that "if it isn't broke, don't fix it" rings more true to you. Whatever the case, it's most important that you consider your process and try to be as objective as possible in your review.

We've placed a form field below for you to give your feedback.


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