Backups – Make sure they’re happening!

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You’re out there administering servers. You’re busy adding users, sharing folders, managing group policies and troubleshooting email problems. But what about backups?

As a third party IT support company, most almost all of my new clients who have servers had no backup running. In most cases, there hadn’t been a successful backup for months, or even years. Many IT professionals are cognizant enough to setup backup routines, but then never check them to ensure they’re functioning properly.

In the Windows Server world, if you’re running anything newer than Server 2003, then you have a built-in Windows Server Backup software. This is Microsoft’s own backup utility, which creates full disk images of the server onto external media. If anything happens to your server, all you do is pop in the original installation media, chose the ‘repair’ option and away you go. I’ve had to restore a few servers in this manner, and have never had an issue. For many small businesses and organizations, this is the best tool available, since more comprehensive backup options can be costly and unaffordable.

However, with that said, configuring your backups isn’t enough. Not by a long stretch. Most of the systems I’ve seen that hadn’t had a successful backup in months or years actually did have a backup regime configured. It just wasn’t running properly. At some point it failed and was never fixed. There is really no excuse for this. If you’re running anything newer than Windows Server 2008 (so that’s SBS 2011, Server 2012, Server 2012 R2, etc.), there’s a built-in reporting system that can alert you to the status of backups. For my company, we have a daily report that comes in via e-mail that gives us the status of the last backup (failed or succeeded). With this daily e-mail, there would be no excuse for months or even years to go by without a functioning backup.

If you happen to be working with servers older than what’s mentioned above, then you’re pretty much stuck to using third party tools, usually at a cost (such as Symantec’s BackupExec, or BackupExpress, etc.). I have experience with a few of these tools, and I have never seen one that didn’t have a reporting function built-in.

If you’re in the non-Windows world, the same principals apply, although the tools and methods you use may be different.

In conclusion, it is the responsibility of every single systems administrator to ensure that backups are not only setup, but are functioning correctly. With the tools and systems out there today, there is absolutely no excuse to not be monitoring backup regimes.

Author

Martin Lehner

Martin Lehner is an technology professional working for an IT services firm in Whitehorse, Yukon (Canada). He has been working in the technology field for over a decade. With a degree in Business Admin and numerous industry certifications, Martin leads a team of IT professionals that provide third party support for clients. Originally starting a company to offer web development services, Martin quickly realized that clients wanted the entire spectrum of technology services. When Martin is not at work (which is not often, since his company offers 24/7 support), he is busy at home spending time with his family.

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