Importance of Database Backups and Recovery Plan

In this fast moving world, data is the heart and soul of any enterprise. It has become an essential task for organizations around the world to protect their data. Database Administrator’s have a tough job to implement database backup and disaster recovery plans. Backing up your databases can protect an organization against the accidental loss of data, database corruption, hardware/operating system crashes or any natural disasters.  Unfortunately if you don’t have proper database backups then you are left with nothing to fall back on. As a DBA you need to make sure that the databases are backed up regularly and the backup tapes are stored in a secure location.

Identifying a good database backup plan
It takes time for the Database Administrators to identify an excellent database backup and recovery plan. DBA’s need to understand what data needs to be backed up, and how often the databases should be backed up. The below mentioned points will help a DBA to create a plan which will be suitable to their organizations.  

How important is the data
Database Administrator’s needs to understand the importance of data as it will help determine when and how the databases should be backed up. For mission critical databases, you should have redundant backup sets that can even extend for several backup periods. There are scenarios in which organizations keep databases backups for years to meet the legal compliance. Those are databases which are very critical for the organizations.

What kind of information does the database store
There are chances that the data which you think is important may not be important to someone else in your organization. So it becomes very important to know from business what’s important and what’s not important to them. The type of information stored in databases will let you decide on the database backup and recovery plan to be kept in place.

Analysis how often the data in the database is getting changed
As a DBA you also need to understand how often the data in the database is getting refreshed, this is one very important parameter which will help you to plan and decide on the right backup approach. If the data in the database is getting modified more frequently then you need to plan to take the database backups may be hourly or once in few hours. The frequency of the database backups depends on the volume of changes and the amount of data loss acceptable to the business if they backup are not available.

How fast you need to recover the database
This is one of the most important and a critical factor in deciding a right backup plan. Database Administrators needs to understand how critical the database is for the organizations. You need to know how much downtime is affordable to the business and how a prolonged downtime can affect the company’s revenue. DBA needs to alter the backup plan according to the business requirement. Most organizations require 99.9% uptime. Better the backup plan the lesser will be the downtime faced to recover in case of any disaster. Backup and Restore takes time depending upon the size of the database. DBA needs to have a fair idea on the average time taken to backup and restore database. 

Do you have sufficient hardware
DBA needs to have sufficient hardware available to take the database backups. In order to perform backs on time, you need to have several backups’ drives and several sets of backup media available. Hardware which is required to take backups includes tape drives, optical drives and removable disk drives. It’s faster to take the backups first on the local disks on the server and then copy it to the external media like tapes. Once the backups are done they should be verified to see that the backups are valid else it will defeat the purpose altogether.

Identify Resources who will be performing the backups and recovery
In an organization there should be a team of DBA’s who will be the primary contacts for all the database backups and recovery activities. The primary responsibility of this team should be to perform the actual backups and to perform the restore operations. They also need to verify that the databases backed up are valid. The DBA’s should also plan for mock disaster recovery drills once in a month or once in a quarter to understand and document the best practices to be followed during the time of disaster. This is something which is not practiced by the DBA quite often and that’s a big risk for the organization.

Identity the best time to perform the backups
DBA need to find the time during the day when the servers are less used to take the full backups. The differential and transaction backups need to be planned depending on the business requirements. It’s not always possible to schedule backups during the off peak hours. DBA also needs to backup all the system databases on the servers once in a day at least; these backups will help you rebuild your environment from scratch during disaster. 
 
Importance of having backups stored at offsite
Storing copies of database backups in offsite locations helps organizations to recover quickly in case of a natural disaster. The offsite location should also have information for each and every server and there configurations, this will help DBA to build new servers if required. Any changes to the existing servers needs to be noted down in the disaster recovery documents available in offsite. A copy of all the software installs needs to be made available in the offsite location. As that will be mandatory to build the servers and reestablish the business quickly.

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