Assess First. Then Backup

W. Curtis Preston, president of The Storage Group, an Oceanside, Calif.-based consulting firm, said the first step is to define an acceptable loss of data, which requires putting a monetary value on the loss of each type of data. Companies then can compare that value to the cost of backing up the data, he said.

The second step is to make sure all data is backed up, said. To ensure all pertinent data is taken care of, Preston suggested users make a list of data that should be excluded rather than data that should be included.

Any backup catalogs for database files should always be included in the backup, Preston said. "Recovery of your backup catalog should be the easiest recovery and the most tested recovery you have," he said.

Preston also recommended backing up the operating system, as it takes such a small amount of the overall backup time.

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Backing up all data is a good idea for nonsophisticated users, said John Thome, vice president of Chi, a Warrensville Heights, Ohio-based solution provider. "But if it's a more sophisticated user, they may know what they don't need to back up, such as an SQL Server test file."

The majority of businesses back up their data to a storage volume separate from the volume where their data is normally stored, and not to another server, Thome said. Such a capability would require the use of a bare metal restore option for most backup applications, something most smaller businesses do not purchase, he said.

As a result, companies may do test restores of the volume, but not a full-blown server restore. "If the customer has a redundant server, they might do such tests," Thome said.

"If not,and most don't,they will not kill the server during the backup."

For many small businesses, the loss of a single hard drive could mean the end of the company. To prevent such a disaster, small businesses should consider using laptop backup software,which automatically performs backups at regular intervals,for their desktops and servers, Preston said. Data from those desktops or servers can be backed up to a server in a co-location facility or even over a DSL line to the owner's home.