Backups and Disaster Recovery

Backups are an incredibly important aspect of a system administrator’s job. Without good backups and a well planned backup policy and processes it is a near certainty that sooner or later some critical data will be irretrievably lost. In fact it is a matter of when your data will be lost rather than if.

All companies today, regardless of how large or small run on their data. Consider the financial and business cost of losing all of the data you need to run your business. I daresay there is not a business today ranging from the smallest sole proprietorship to the largest global corporation that could survive the loss of all of its data, or even a large fraction of that data.

By loss, here, I don’t mean stolen data; that is an entirely different type of disaster. What I mean here is the complete destruction of the data.

Even if you are an individual and not running a large corporation, backing up your data is very important. I have two decades of personal financial data as well as that for my now closed businesses, including a large number of electronic receipts. I also have many documents, presentations, and spreadsheets of various types that I have created over the years. I really don’t want to lose all of that.

So backups are imperative to ensure the long-term safety of my data.

If your place of business burns down, is inundated by a tsunami, destroyed by a tornado or earthquake, how will your business survive? To assume that the data can be recovered from your hard drive is to assure failure. Your business records represent a huge asset to your company. To have them destroyed will also destroy your business.

Backups as Security

Your place of business can be rebuilt using insurance, but your data can never be rebuilt. It must be backed up and stored in a safe place. You need to back up your business’ data. There are no other options. Do it or lose it.

But just backing up to an external hard drive, USB thumb drive or Zip drive will not save your business. You need to make regular backups and keep the most recent copies at a remote location; that is not in the same building or even within a few miles of your business location, if at all possible.

A reasonable option for most small businesses is to make daily backups on removable media and take the latest copy home at night. The next morning, take an older backup back to the office. You should have several rotating copies of your backups. Even better would be to take the latest backup to the bank and place it in your safe deposit box, then return with the backup from the day before.

Backup options

There are many options for performing backups. Most Linux distributions are provided with one or more open source programs especially designed to perform backups. There are many commercial options available as well. But none of those directly met my needs so I decided to use basic Linux tools to do the job.

I started by using the tar and ssh commands for backups as described in my article, Using tar and ssh for backups. After using that combination very successfully for a few years, I started experimenting with the rsync command as described in my article, Using rsync for Backup.

Whether you use either of these methods, or some other that you develop for yourself, backups are extremely important. If you are not doing them already, now is a good time to try one of these methods.

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