Backup: The Most Important System Task

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As Tecsys recommends that every client have a good reliable Backup system and process in place, we provide the following for Guidelines.


  • Someone in your company must be responsible for system backups. This person should be responsible for the following duties:

    1. Be familiar with the backup hardware and software.
    2. Ensure that the backup media is properly labelled.
    3. Ensure that the backup media is properly rotated.
    4. Ensure that the backup program is backing up the required data.
    5. Review the backup logs to ensure that the backup is functioning properly.

Backup Devices

  • We recommend either removable disk or a LTO tape drive as the backup device.

  • When choosing a backup device speed, capacity and cost must be considered. You need to know how much data must be backed up and how much time you have to complete the backup. The choice of backup device will be much easier once these parameters are known.

  • Note: Recordable CD and DVD drives generally do not offer enough capacity for backing up a server.

  • Avoid low cost tape drives such as Travan. These drives may appear to be a cheaper solution but either a DAT or DLT tape drive will provide much more reliable and intersystem compatible backups. Also consider the cost of the tapes when comparing tape drives.

  • Cartridge Disk and External USB Hard Drives are now very popular.

Backup Software

  • Do not rely on a homegrown backup script or an entry-level solution such as the backup program that is packaged with Windows. A commercial backup package is recommended. The benefits will far outweigh the costs. The backup software must be able to back up "open" or in use files.

  • For Unix/Linux servers Tecsys recommends Microlite’s BackEDGE. This is a full-featured backup solution with built in Disaster recovery at a truly modest price. For more information, please see the Microlite web site:

  • For Windows servers Tecsys recommends Symantec Backup EXEC. BackupEXEC is one of, if not the best, Windows backup package available. There are several add-on modules available for Backup EXEC. Current releases of Backup EXEC include Open File Option. The Open File Option can "snapshot" files so that they can be successfully backed up while in use.

  • The Intelligent Disaster Recovery option produces bootable media that can allow the system to be recovered directly from tape. This can save a significant amount of time when recovering the system.

  • Other modules include agents for backing up MS Exchange, MS SQL, additional servers and so on. For more information, please see the following link to the Symantec web site:

Media & Frequency

  • The type of tape drive chosen will determine the type of media. As a rule you should backup after every day of operation. If your system is used five days a week you should have an absolute minimum of ten backup tapes. Two sets of five. This allows for 10 business days of backup at any one time. Three sets of five would be better. You should also have a few spare tapes.

  • We also recommend that a backup be done just prior to a month-end, be pulled and stored separately. Similarly back-ups just prior to the year-ends, be pulled and stored separately. Bank safety deposit boxes are generally a good location for such.

  • At least one backup set should be kept off site. We recommend whoever changes the tapes keeps one set at home. There are also companies that provide off-site storage for backups.

  • Proper maintenance of the tape drive is essential. We recommend using a cleaning cartridge once a week on DAT tape drives. DLT and LTO drives should be cleaned when the "clean" LED comes on. Cleaning cartridges have a limited life span, usually 20 or 50 passes. We recommend you keep a few in stock.

  • Cartridge Disk and External USB drives can have much higher capacity than tape enabling them to store multiple backups. It is still our recommendation to have at least one backup drive for each day of operation and to store at least one of them off-site.

Backup Window

  • Ideally backups should be performed when the system is not in use. This is known as a "Backup Window".

  • Where multiple databases are involved keeping the databases in sync is also a concern.

  • Automated tasks that update the database or databases should be suspended or stopped to allow for a "clean" backup. For example, in the case of an Enterprise server with a Replicated E-Commerce and or iTopia server, it would be wise to stop the Replication task (RP10) during the backup.

Disaster Recovery

  • To be able to recover from a disaster a current good backup is essential. The backup will provide you with a restore point, but that is only a starting point. Once the system has been restored all data processed since that backup must also be recovered. Depending on the circumstances this procedure can be very complicated and time consuming.

  • Always consult with Software Support before attempting to restore from backup.


  • Following these guidelines will significantly reduce the risk of data loss when a major system failure occurs.

  • Although systems have become much more reliable, they have also become smaller introducing the threat of theft. Acts of vandalism such as viruses or someone erasing or damaging the system and natural disasters such as fire, flood and lightning are still very real. Honest human error can also damage your data.

  • Be warned. Poorly protected businesses often do not survive major data loss.

  • Be safe. Ensure you have a good backup strategy in place.