Data Backup – It’s Like Insurance

Most of us are aware of the need to backup our data, whether it’s our office computer, home computer, web site or one of the many gadgets that now occupy our homes, however just knowing we should be doing it does not always translate into actually doing it – and even if you are backing up your important data, is it enough to recover everything should the worst happen?

Over the weekend, a site that I look after suffered from a storage failure – in this case it was simply a storage server that locked up and needed a reboot. Once this was done, most of the servers connected to it recovered happily. One, however, did not and required a scan and recovery of the main file system. The server rebooted happily, but once back up and running all was not well. Web pages were serving random binary gibberish, and so it was time to turn to the backups.

There are generally two types of backup system, those that provide a “bare metal restore” and those that don’t. The former allow a complete restore of the server from scratch, usually using some form of boot media. The latter allow you access to the files, but reinstalling the OS and reconfiguring software may be required once files are restore. In our case, we had to use a file based restore, but luckily, as the server had its boot files intact, we could set up a live boot CD, wipe the main data partition and just restore all the files from the most recent backup (taken at 3am that morning). It took a couple of hours, but the end result was a functioning server again.

The moral of this story? Having a working backup of your data is like insurance, and should be treated like car insurance, home insurance or if you are a business, like your office insurance – you hope never to use it, but it’s a worthwhile cost for that peace of mind, and if you do need it, it’s worth every penny!

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