Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Its not the backup system that counts - its the recovery

Two weeks ago, my Access 2003 laptop bit the dust, stopped working, kaput.  Doesn't matter how good your backup systems are its always tense when you go hunting for those files.  In my case the main backups were created using Norton's 360 on a Terabyte drive and I had recovered files from there a few times so I wasn't too worried. But when I looked at the files from another PC using Norton's they weren't there.  Norton's packs everything into an encrypted /file and Norton's from the other machines only showed the backups from that specific machine.  An hour of madly typing in a Logmein session with a Nortons engineer at 3 in the morning and I finally worked out the trick that allowed me to recover the files from a different PC.  It wasn't obvious in the help file etc   You know the story... After the Easter weekend a Chinese guy at the local PC shop did a disk mirror and I got my older laptop working again so I was back to normal. 

Moral of the story.  Never rely on just having a backup system, its much more important to rely on testing the backup system with recoveries.  Irrespective of what your backup system is, delete an unimportant file and then recover it.  Once I tried this with a big company and they sheepishly said they couldn't, all their backup tapes were empty.

"Its the recovery that counts "  Try it now..  Not next week  Now.   
Garry Robinson - Access MVP 2006-2011

2 comments:

Ben said...

This is a very good point. I had many encounters with IT departments being unable to recover files that were supposedly backed up. Even when they can restore files, you may have to wait a while for them to take action.

In a business setting, anyone who stores files on their local computer should heed this advice: "take responsibility for your own data backups". Even if your company has a laptop backup routine, a small investment in an external drive is great peace of mind. There are plenty of simple backup programs available on the Internet. Cobian is free and will store backups in .zip files. This approach means you can recover data without needing any special recovery software.

My personal method of backup is to encrypt a partition of an external hard drive with TrueCrypt and then I use a batch file to backup my profile and additional folders using XCOPY. Here is an excerpt from my routine:

set Folder=My Documents
echo --== %Folder%
XCOPY "%USERPROFILE%\%Folder%" "\%USERNAME%_Backup\%Folder%" /S /E /F /H /C /R /Y /D /I /EXCLUDE:MyExcludes.txt

and the MyExcludes.txt file contains items I want to skip like:

outlook.ost
\Podcasts\
\Appdata\
\My Pictures\
\My Dropbox\
\My Music\

With the XCOPY backup, only the files that have changed will be copied. Your backup files are not compressed but they are readily accessible. There are other pros and cons to this method compared to others, but the important thing is to have a method that you know consistently works.

Ben said...

This is a very good point. I've had many encounters with IT departments being unable to recover files that were supposedly backed up. Even when they can restore files, you may have to wait a while for them to take action.

In a business setting, anyone who stores files on their local computer should heed this advice: "take responsibility for your own data backup". Even if your company has a laptop backup routine, a small investment in an external drive is great peace of mind. There are plenty of simple backup programs available on the Internet. Cobian is free and will store backups in .zip files. This approach means you can recover data without needing any special recovery software.

My personal method of backup is to encrypt a partition of an external hard drive with TrueCrypt and then I use a batch file to backup my profile and additional folders using XCOPY. Here is an excerpt from my routine:

set Folder=My Documents
echo --== %Folder%
XCOPY "%USERPROFILE%\%Folder%" "\%USERNAME%_Backup\%Folder%" /S /E /F /H /C /R /Y /D /I /EXCLUDE:MyExcludes.txt

and the MyExcludes.txt file contains items I want to skip like:

outlook.ost
\Podcasts\
\Appdata\
\My Dropbox\
\My Music\

With the XCOPY backup, only the files that have changed will be copied. Your backup files are not compressed but they are readily accessible. There are other pros and cons to this method compared to others, but the important thing is to have a method that you know consistently works.