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4 tips for backup infrastructure maintenance

Like a car or any other important machine or device, backup architecture should have a maintenance plan. This process will help ensure the health and integrity of your backups.

Once you have a backup infrastructure in place, it's important to maintain it through regular updates and testing.

A cardinal sin of data protection is to leave a system or a plan as is. Instead, you should be reviewing the infrastructure and consistently trying to see where it could be improved.

Here are four major best practices for keeping your data backup system maintained and ready for action.

1. Avoid the general, focus on the specific

Rule No. 1 is to avoid taking a generic approach to the maintenance process and focus instead on the specifics. Maintenance is not a one-size-fits-all task.

Consider, for example, differences in maintenance requirements within the automotive world. A small car and an 18-wheeler are both vehicles designed for road use, but you would not try to service your car at a place that only works on semitrucks. Likewise, a data protection maintenance schedule that tells you to clean your tape drives once a week would be laughable if you only perform disk-based backups. As such, the maintenance techniques that you use have to be matched to your data backup infrastructure.

2. Have a policy for refreshing your media

In spite of the need to address your own unique backup infrastructure, there are several general areas of focus that are more or less universal. For starters, every backup uses some sort of backup media. Tape backups use tapes. Disk backups use disks. Even cloud backups usually depend on disks for caching purposes. Therefore, put in place a media refresh policy. Storage media does not last forever, so it is important to set a policy defining the number of times that tapes can be overwritten or the frequency with which disks need to be replaced.

3. Update your backup infrastructure

Like any other server, a backup server periodically needs updates. Unfortunately, the update process can be both time-consuming and disruptive. As such, it is a good idea to have a set policy for installing updates. This will help to prevent those unwanted situations in which the OS forces an update and reboots the backup server without your consent.

4. Test, test, test

Finally, be mindful of the integrity of the backups. This one isn't quite as pressing as it used to be, because modern backup systems tend to be highly reliable. Even so, I have seen countless situations over the years in which a configuration error kept key data from being backed up. As a result, it is important to schedule regular backup tests. Such tests verify the integrity of the backup infrastructure, confirm that all of your data is being backed up and help the administrative staff to remain familiar with how the recovery process works.

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