Secrets of Data Verification – Stop Dropping Backups in Acid

Written by: Brian Geisel

Topics: Best Practices

Will your Nightmare Come True?

Danger! - Unverified Backups - Danger!

Would you trust your most recent backup in hydrochloric acid?  What if I told you that your entire set of backups might have been tainted — that they had been completely ruined?  I’ve talked to far too many people who are deep into panic when they realize that every backup they’ve ever made… is worthless.

How does this happen?  I’ll tell you a story.

Bob was an entrepreneur.  He had started his business from the ground up — With his own two hands, and all that jazz.  Now it was a thriving company producing solid net revenues.  Having so much skin in the game, Bob was very particular about how his business was handled from accounting to system administration.  In fact, every night he would take the most recent backup and tuck it neatly into the passenger seat of his Mercedes for the ride home.  The backups were even locked away in a safe at home (he apparently hadn’t bought the BackupEDGE encryption option!) so they were protected from crooks and fire alike.

Well, the unthinkable did eventually happen.  There was a major disaster at the office and all of the data on Bob’s primary server was gone.  Bob wisked home to retrieve the backups he had so meticulously squirreled away.  He handed the most recent backup to his sysadmin to have the tape restored.  To his utter dismay, he found that the tape was completely empty.  What’s even worse, every tape in the set was totally blank!  What could have happened!?

Well, in poor Bob’s case, his Mercedes seat heaters acted like a giant electromagnet, erasing each and every tape on the drive home.  Unfortunately, without doing verification of the tapes, Bob had no way to know that his backups would be empty when he needed them most.

It’s a great illustration (and I believe it is even based on a true story) that explains why data verification is so important.  Unfortunately, most people only care about data verification once it is too late.  A backup without verification is like playing Russian Roulette, and frankly that’s not a game I’m willing to play with my business.

The good news is, there is a way to fix the problem from the beginning.  Data Verification.  Once a backup is made, it is quintessential that a verification be run to assert that the data has made it to the destination and that it is actually the right data.  In the case of physical media it is important to make sure that the data is the right data.  When we’re dealing with remote data (data backed up to FTP, for example), we’d really like to know that our data made it to the destination safely.

I had a conversation with a system administrator one night.  We were talking about proper data backups and their expected restore rates and he actually mentioned that while working for a Fortune 500 company, he had never done a verification.  I was astonished and asked him how they knew any of those backups were any good.  “We didn’t”, was his reply.  He added, “We were just hoping we’d never have to restore from them to find out.”  When I told him I knew of a product that did automatic restores, he was impressed.

Automatic Data Verification is just one of the many reasons I chose to sell Microlite BackupEDGE on this website.  It isn’t just good data backup, it is an entire package.  Hopefully you’re reading this article today before you have a data “oops”.  I hate telling folks how cheap good data backup can be after they’ve had a major meltdown.  So, stock up on professional backup resources today so you can save yourself the headache and the heartache.