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Managing Risk – Your Backup Strategy

November 10, 2010 by  

We’ve all been there. You think to yourself that you should back up a file, directory, or database then after making some really critical changes… do a quick file copy and – BAM! – all your work is lost. Less frequently on desktop machines – but surprisingly often on heavily used servers – a disk failure can result in even more catastrophic losses. If you consider that many sites online comprise the intellectual property, storefront, and contents of a business, a disk drive failure could at a minimum mean downtime for the business. In a worst-case scenario with a complete failure where all contents were lost, a business could be shut down immediately due to a loss of data, configuration, and/or the complete site software and configuration. All of this may be stating the obvious to most but, believe me, total data loss does happen to many sites that weren’t equipped with a proper backup strategy.

The first principle of any backup is to always have a readily available and recent copy of your site configuration, software (i.e. application source code), and database structure, as well as a recent copy of the actual data within your database. How you obtain this backup can vary greatly, depending on your hosting provider and the quality of services they offer. Virtually all hosts today offer some form of backup, even if it’s just a weekly snapshot. The better hosts will advertise backup options, possibly even using industrial-strength software tools such as R1Soft CDP, which ensure that MySQL databases and other valuable data sources remain continuously backed up to a reliable underlying data store.

Another key component of a backup strategy is what to do in the event that an outage occurs (for example, due to a hard drive failure). The prepared site administrator will have already had discussions with the hosting provider and perhaps will have worked through a dry run of the backup recovery process, for several reasons. The first and primary reason is to make sure the recovery process actually works as advertised, since there are many disreputable hosts out there who cut corners and offer one thing while actually doing another.  A second reason is to certify that you are backing up and recovering all files that are truly required for you to resume operations, should a recovery be required. Finally, a third reason is to gauge the amount of time required in order to go from “nothing” (i.e. the web site is down) to “operational” (i.e. the full web site is back up).

As you can see, a comprehensive backup strategy requires a mix of good planning, good support, and good tools along with a time investment, but if your site and data is important to your business, it is an investment that may one day pay great dividends.

A recommended Approved Host provider who can assist in setting up a secure web hosting environment with automated backups is DedicatedNOW.com.  For a limited time, DedicatedNOW is offering free 50GB of R1Soft backup on all new servers. For more information on DedicatedNOW and the FindMyHost consumer guarantee included with your purchase: www.findmyhost.com/dedicatednow.

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