Disaster and Emergency Preparedness
Steps to ensure that you have a complete and reliable backup

Do a full backup: Full backups are preferred to partial backups. Having everything that was on your hard drive is better than finding out you need a critical file that isn't in your backup and is not otherwise available. Modern backup hardware is able to do complete backups of large hard drives in a matter of hours.

Do backups daily: Ask yourself if you really want to recreate an entire day's work. Backups can be set to run automatically, in the middle of the night. A daily backup ensures you have all of the work and data that you created up until the end of the previous day.

Identify responsible person(s) and alternatives: Doing the backup should be a mandatory responsibility that is assigned to a specific individual who will also have a back-up person in the event he or she is out. Back up every day, without fail!

Review the backup log: Most backup software programs create a log report when a backup is completed. This report details what was backed up and if there were any problems.

Perform regular test restores: Don't believe the backup log, they can be wrong! The only way to know your backup is working is to regularly do a test restore of selected files and folders. This means identifying something you worked on recently (a document, presentation or even a saved e-mail) and trying to retrieve it from the backup media.

Store backups off-site: Tapes left on top of your server in your office will be destroyed or taken along with your server if there is a fire or theft. You should store at least some backup tapes in one or more safe off-site locations.

Rotate tapes daily: Don't use the same tape over and over. For example, use a series of five tapes, one for each night of the week. This can be helpful when database corruption is detected sometime after it occurred. Having an older backup will allow you to reach back to an earlier date if necessary.

Tapes are perishable: When a tape is 12 to 18 months old, take it out of the backup rotation to prevent breakage and data corruption issues. Re-label and date it as an archive tape. Some firms keep end of month or end of year archive tapes.

Don't forget data on desktops, laptops and PDAs: Usually server backups are configured to only back up data on servers. Make sure that data on desktop computers, laptops and PDAs (Personal Digital Assistants) gets backed up as well.