backupToday, most individuals and businesses have developed healthy backup habits.

But despite this, we’re still seeing a steady increase in the number of serious data loss incidents. And what’s really surprising is that there seems to be a new trend of critical data loss amongst people and companies that already back up their data on a regular basis.

Amongst this new breed of data loss incident, the most common variable is a reluctance to test backups. Although most leading backup experts advise their clients to test backups on – at least – an annual basis, people are still neglecting to perform these regular tests.

And because of this, we’re now seeing an alarming trend where organizations have many years worth of backups on file, but have no idea if these backups can actually be restored.

Outlined below, are a number of key reasons why people and companies should test their backups at least once per year.

  1. New computers are constantly being added to networks. And often, we forget to back up these new computers. (This is particularly true in the case of virtual servers).
  2. New applications may be added to your computers, which save data in unusual parts of the hard drive. If you’re only backing up your desktop and “My Documents” folders, you may be leaving some important files unprotected.
  3. There may be some new internal processes within your company which dictate how certain types of data should be handled. Failure to follow these policies could land you in trouble. (Either for privacy, security or performance reasons).
  4. Likewise, there may be new laws or regulations that dictate what you can and cannot do with private customer information. Failure to adhere to these rules could lead to heavy penalties. (Ex: HIPAA, SOX404, PIPEDA, etc…).
  5. Storage is now growing at an alarming rate. Many people are reporting that their file storage doubles in size every year. This rapid data growth means longer backup times, slower recovery, more difficulty finding specific files, and more chances for error.
  6. Now that we’re living in the Web 2.0/Cloud Computing age, we’re seeing a rapid change in the network topology of most organizations. Employees are increasingly moving outside of the internal network, while the datacenter is being reshaped in order to leverage the benefits of public, private and hybrid clouds. If a backup administrator loses track of where these servers fit within the network architecture, they can be accidentally left out of the backup process.
  7. Now that employees are increasingly working from laptops and mobile devices, extra care must be taken to track, administer and secure the backups of these remote travelling devices.
  8. Because organizations are increasingly working in a global 24/7 marketplace, there is less tolerance for downtime. You need to ensure that your backups can be recovered quickly in order to minimize downtime.
  9. Some programs – like word processing or spreadsheets – can tolerate up to a day’s worth of data loss without causing too many problems. And other systems – such as e-commerce databases – have almost zero tolerance for data loss. It’s important to know what your backup priorities are in order to design an efficient and cost-effective backup process that still covers all of your data protection needs.
  10. Often, backup storage can become damaged without anyone realizing it. It’s important to test your backups to ensure that your data can – in fact – be retrieved.
  11. Sometimes you need to recover only a few files, and sometimes you need to recover an entire system. “Bare metal recovery” is one of the trickiest areas of backup. You need practice to ensure that you’re properly prepared… and that you’re able to recover when needed.
  12. The IT industry is known for its high turnover. Would your company be able to restore its servers if you – or another key person – were unavailable?
  13. Too often, we assume that backups can be recovered to the same systems on which it was created. But what would happen if your entire datacenter was destroyed by a natural disaster? How certain are you about your ability to recover in a timely manner?

Of course, this is not meant to be a comprehensive list. If you can think of any other reasons why backups need to be tested regularly, please leave them in the comments below.