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How Often Should You Backup Your Data, Really?

Whether you’re storing your information in a digital environment or on a physical server, it should go without saying that you need to keep it properly backed up. After all, no server installation is perfect, and there’s always a chance that something will go wrong.

You need to make sure that you’re prepared for the event that it does – and that you don’t lose anything mission-critical in the process. To that end, today’s piece is going to address a fairly simple question: how often should you update your backups?

The answer to that isn’t as obvious as you’d think. There’s a huge range of different factors that come into play when determining your backup system, and most organizations don’t really have a definitive idea of how frequently they should save their stuff. They’ve only got their best guess to work with.

Bacula – the backup solution used by Server Mania – lists several different questions an organization should ask itself before setting up a backup/restore system – a decision which it maintains should be made on a case-by-case basis.

These include storage costs data growth, freedom of choice in regards to servers, backup licenses, support expectations, total cost of ownership, and account management details – among others, such as applications, operating system, and the frequency with which data is updated.

It’s also published a whitepaper concerning the best practices for disk-based backup. If you’ve the time, I’d highly recommend giving it a read. There’s a lot of valuable information to be found there, all of which can help you hammer out a backup solution for your business.

There are four general types of backup solutions available to most clients:

 

  • File-Level Backup: This involves simply transferring files and folders to another device or location.  
  • Block-Level Backup: Typically a little faster than file level-backups, a block-level backup copies over every bit of information on a device – for example- a hard drive – to be restored in the event that something goes terribly wrong.
  • Version-Level Or Versioning Backup: Unlike file-level and block-level backups, versioning backups are more app-geared than data-geared; they’re used to restore an application to a prior version in the event that it starts to misbehave.
  • Server-Level Backups create an image of a client’s entire server, allowing them to restore their data in the event of a catastrophic failure.

Simple enough, right?  Ideally, you’re going to want to use file or block-level backup, combined with regular versioning and server-level backups. Of course, that still doesn’t answer our core question here – how often should you be running each of them?

The short answer is “whenever humanly possible.”

In a perfect world, you’ll run a file-level or block-level backup whenever any significant changes are made to the data stored on your server – likely several times or more a day, in other words. Server-level backups, meanwhile, should be run every twenty-four to forty-eight hours. As for versioning backups, the best practice is generally to create one every time you update – that way you’ll be able to rollback if anything goes wrong with your software.

It goes without saying that, no matter what kind of server you’re running, you need to make sure you’ve got backups stored somewhere – redundancy is only going to take you so far. How often those backups need to be updated depends entirely on your business, and what it does. At the end of the day, it’s better to err on the side of caution – back things up more often than you think you have to.

After all, you probably don’t want to deal with the alternative.

Image credit: Redline

Kevin Blanchard

Kevin Blanchard

Kevin Blanchard is the CEO of ServerMania.