Businesses hosting their own data should keep these best practices in mind.

Last Saturday, Hurricane Hanna made landfall. The Category 1 storm battered the South Texas coastline for hours with torrential rain and 90-mile-per-hour winds. By the end, mother nature’s fury had left flooding, power outages and damage, the cost of which has yet to be fully assessed and calculated, in its wake.

Why backups are important

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) predicted an “above-normal” hurricane season back in May. But a natural disaster is only one type of disaster. From cyberattacks to hardware failures, businesses around the world, including convenience retailers, worry about the impact extended downtime or, worse, data loss, can have on their financial fortunes. Hint…the implications are pretty huge.

According to a recent study by LogicMonitor, 96 percent of survey respondents said they’d experienced an outage at some point in the last three years. Whether you’re a large or small business, when it comes to the data your operation relies on to serve customers, every minute wasted literally costs the company thousands of dollars. That’s why backups are so important.

Best practices for a reliable backup

So, what should you do to ensure your business is able to maintain or recover critical systems during and following a disaster?

Of course, one of the easiest and most reliable solutions is to get with a partner that provides managed cloud hosting, including monitoring and disaster recovery services. Managed cloud hosting is especially helpful for organizations with stretched IT resources, though it’s not limited to smaller companies. In fact, many of PDI’s customers have chosen that option, which reduces the risk of long downtimes and lost revenue.

If, however, you’re opting to host your own data, here are a few things you should keep in mind.

Keep your firmware current

Be sure to stay up-to-date on your firmware. This may seem like an obvious best practice, but its importance is often disregarded. Firmware updates provide fixes to various issues and help maintain the health of your server before major problems arise. Some companies ascribe to an “if it’s not broke, don’t fix it” mentality. In this case, seemingly small issues may be allowed to compound over time, or they may be detected too late altogether.

Retention, reporting, scheduling and testing

First, decide on a retention plan that is both reasonable and comprehensive. That means you may not have to keep daily backups for a year, but you should probably include more than 2-3 days of backups. A more reasonable time frame is to keep 14-28 daily backups. This permits a nice blend of recoverability and storage consumption. Specific business cases will vary.

Second, configure detailed reporting to alert the necessary parties of both successes and failures. The reason for failure notifications is obvious, but success notifications allow you to confirm what is being backed up as well. Once the system is stable, moving to failure-only notifications is permissible.

Next, schedule the backups late enough that users should be out of all the servers being backed up but early enough that they will complete before the users arrive the next day. Keep in mind that configuring all servers on one schedule is convenient, but it makes performing ad hoc backups of individual servers more tedious. Multiple schedules also allow different SQL Server backup options.

Last, verify your backups with a few restore tests at least once a month, if not weekly. The restore does not have to be extensive, but it needs to be done.

Back up your guest virtual machines

There are two options to back up guest virtual machines. Option one is to back up the virtual hard disk (VHD or VHDX) files through the Hyper-V host. This is the easiest to set up and typically allows you to recover a virtual machine (VM) with a single restore. Option two is to back up the guest VMs from within each VM.

While both methods can be used simultaneously, the process largely doesn’t eliminate redundant information. This can bloat the necessary storage space and increase the time it takes to back up your data. A best practice would be to back up each of the VMs from within each VM, and disable the host-level Hyper-V backups for the VMs, leaving the “Host Components” option selected.

Of course, there are lots of backup best practices, and they may vary depending on the server and backup solution you have. If you’re hosting your own infrastructure, be sure to avoid disaster by consulting the server manufacturer or a third-party reseller for best practices and recommendations that are specific to your needs.

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