Best Practices for Data Backup

Author: Swapna Naraharisetty, 2BrightSparks Pte. Ltd.

The number of security threats and physical disasters are increasing day-by-day. Because of this, organizations and computer users are forced to backup data as part of their daily routine.

Just backing-up your data is not enough to recover from a failure or disaster. It is essential to have a comprehensive backup plan in place to safeguard against emerging threats and disasters. Although there is no standard backup plan suitable for every business or user (as the requirements and priorities are different), there are some best practices/strategies that everyone can consider when building a backup and recovery plan needed for the sustained operation of your business (like making automatic backups, monitoring backups jobs, reviewing log files and backup data).

This article highlights some of the best practices that you can establish to have a consistent and reliable backup needed for recovery.

Backup Data Regularly

First and foremost, you need to identify the files to backup (e.g. documents, pictures, videos and music files) and then setup procedures to backup these files regularly to storage devices. You can refer to the Backup Your Most Important Task article for information on what files to backup.

Depending on the rate of changes and data criticality (business critical data or personal files), backups can be scheduled to run weekly, daily or on an hourly basis. If you rarely update files or create new files, then you can consider running backups weekly or daily. If you want to backup business-critical information, that is changed or accessed frequently by many users, then it is best to run backups on an hourly basis e.g. every hour or every 3 hours etc. In some situations you may only be able to perform a backup outside of operational hours, e.g. backup a database that must be offline for a valid backup to be taken.

Using SyncBack you can easily automate your backups and configure them to run at regular intervals (monthly, weekly, daily or hourly) via the Windows Task Scheduler.

Backup Data to Both Onsite and Offsite Locations

Small businesses or individual users usually store their data on storage devices such as internal/external drives or NAS drives on their local network. These storage devices are inexpensive and provides the ability to access data quickly when compared to the offsite storage devices. The downside of onsite backups is if there is a catastrophic failure, or storage devices are stolen, then all the data stored locally will be lost resulting in complete loss of data and money.

Therefore, many organizations store data away from their premises in locations such as servers (accessed via FTP), cloud services, offsite servers, etc. so that the data can be fully recovered by accessing it from anywhere in the world via the internet. In addition, malware programs like ransomware, spyware and other viruses easily encrypt data stored on a local or network drives, hence keeping an offsite backup is crucial for data recovery. But the disadvantages of using offsite storage are that they are expensive and data retrieval speed depends upon the speed and efficiency of your internet connection.

Considering the pros and cons of onsite and offsite systems, we recommended keeping both onsite and offsite backups to utilize the benefits of each system.

Using SyncBackPro/SE you can setup a safe and secure backup system to backup files to both onsite devices (local drives, external drives, network drives) and offsite locations (cloud, FTP, SyncBack Touch) and increase the chance of recovery. For additional info, refer to the 3-2-1 backup strategy with SyncBack article.

Backup with Versioning

Another key factor in backup is File Versioning. Versioning allows a user to create multiple versions of a file so that the user can restore data from any of the versions available.

The major benefits of using versioning are:

  • preserves all the previous file revisions and ensures no data is lost between updates
  • in case you need to revert changes of a file then you can quickly restore data from the previous backup
  • adds an extra layer of safety to backups

SyncBackPro/SE supports versioning in both backup and restore processes. It creates a version of a file before a file is updated, deleted or moved and stores version files within the scope of your backup. You can also specify the retention period for version files, i.e. the number of versions to keep, for the maximum number of days, then SyncBack (in each run) deletes excess version files and saves space on your backup drive.

Review Backup Logs or Reports

Inspecting log files is a necessary check after each backup to ensure the backup is complete and accurate for any future restore. A backup that you cannot restore from is not a backup. The major benefits of this step are:

  • you can review the results of a backup and verify the list of files copied, deleted or ignored
  • identify any potential failures or errors, investigate further and resolve problems
  • you can decide which backup to use when performing a restore
  • identify any files that you may not wish to include in the backup

Using SyncBack, you can manually review the logs and keep track of all backup activities or events. You can also configure the profile to automatically send an email notification with logs after the profile has been run. You can refer to the Emailing logs to Gmail account article for information on how to send an email notification to a Gmail account (any email service can be used).

Perform a Test Restore

It is important that you perform a test restore to ensure that a backup is working correctly, the backup location can be accessed and the backup is copying the correct files to the correct location. With SyncBack you can perform a simulated restore. This goes through the process of a restore without actually restoring the files. You can also choose to restore to a different location, e.g. a different drive or folder, so that your original files are not altered during the test restore process.

SyncBackPro also has a File Integrity feature that allows you to check that the backup files are not corrupt. See the help file for more details.

Backup Your Backup Application Files (e.g. profiles, databases)

Many backup programs create files and databases (ini files, txt files, database files, etc.) to store data (backup settings, preferences, logs, etc.) required to run a backup. These files can be updated (or recreated) whenever a backup is run, hence they are critical for backup and recovery of your data. Therefore, it is important to back up your backup application files along with your personal/business data to recover from failures.

SyncBackPro/SE has a feature to automatically backup your profile files (including databases, settings files, shared settings) on program exit and stores them in the same location where your profile settings are stored. You can also manually export the profiles (or use -export command line parameter to export the profiles) and backup to any other location to have an additional copy of your profile files. For additional info, refer to the How to Backup my profiles article.

Conclusion

Establishing best practices is a key to a successful backup and recovery system. So, backup your data constantly to an onsite and offsite locations, and proactively monitor the backup tasks to ensure your data can be recovered in the event of a disasters.


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