There can be several reasons why backups fail to run successfully. Believe it or not, it’s usually not because of a major outage or significant event. Many times the cause is a simple technical issue such as not having enough storage space or updating a configuration.

The following are typical technical issues that can be avoided through proper planning.

Technical Issue #1.  The Overwrite Nightmare

A few times a day, a database process updates a single file by replacing it, utilizing a list of orders that incur a processing error. The backups were configured to back up this file daily, but because of the error, they miss most of the file updates. When a restore is later requested, the company discovers that backups are missing, causing compliance regulations to be violated.

Technical Issue #2.  Permission Denied

Technically the backup is performed and completed, but due to an error in access permissions, the process is not backing up the required files. No one realizes that a restore will not contain the essential data – until it’s too late.

Technical Issue #3.  Business Continuity – Interrupted

At the time a scheduled backup runs, if there is no network connection, the network nodes specified in the script are not accessible and the backup fails. Although corresponding errors are written to the log and alerts are issued, the corresponding data will be at risk for loss until IT restores network access.

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Technical Issue #4.  Space is Limited

The backup process kicks off and the program identifies a space limitation problem. The backup file is created but doesn’t have the room to contain all the data. If the logs are not being monitored, it’s difficult to know the severity of the failure.

Technical Issue #5.  Who Turned Off the Alerts?

The backup alerting mechanism is typically activated by default. However, oftentimes someone turns off the alerting feature during testing, for example. Also common is the scenario where that person forgets to turn the alerting back on. When that happens, and if there is a problem with the backup process, no one will be the wiser.

Technical Issue #6.  Backups Come up Empty

When configuring the backup process, typically IT backs up specific VMs containing files belonging to upper management to the public cloud (e.g., Amazon Web Services, AWS). This seems like a good idea at the time until IT attempts to restore data from AWS, and discovers there is no data. It’s later discovered that the leadership team was storing data on separate file servers. In other words, VMs containing no data were being backed up, but the actual data in the file servers was not.

Technical Issue #7.  Malware Outsmarts Backups

A backup process does what it’s told to do; back up the data from location A to location B, according to a certain schedule. Backups are not smart enough to know whether the data has been infected by malware, so it performs business as usual and backs up the infected data. The hard lesson learned is that data backup is not equal to data security.

Technical Issue #8.  The Covert Migration

An IT manager creates a new environment and migrates all data over from the old SAP instance to a new SAP instance. Unfortunately, when that person doesn’t share this information with the backup team, nothing after the migration takes place is backed up.

10 Basic Steps to Help Prevent Technical Issues from Interfering with Your Backup

  1. Check space – Monitor your backup storage space and ensure that sufficient space is available to handle backup files.
  2. Monitor backup activities – Check backup processes regularly for anomalies, such as unusual filenames, script timeouts, node access errors or dramatic size changes.
  3. Keep alerting activated – Ensure the alert function is active, set up properly and reactivated when turned off for any reason.
  4. Know where data resides – IT team members should be in communication with all users so they understand where data resides and can create appropriate backups which may include cloud platforms and applications.
  5. Integrate your security solution – Your backup will store data “as is.” Your security solution needs to protect the data from ransomware and other malware before it’s backed up.
  6. Run network health checks – Validate your infrastructure’s architecture and performance so you can identify connection issues before they affect backups and restores.
  7. Include change management – When you make a change to the infrastructure affecting data flows, be sure to update your backup plan.
  8. Evaluate the storage platform – Many companies believe it’s acceptable to place the backups on their aging hardware. Often, they do not know if the hardware is fully-supported by the vendor with an active warranty.
  9. Architect your solution with experts – Work with a trusted partner to implement the backup solution that supports your specific needs to fit your risk requirements.
  10. Periodically re-evaluate the backup plan – Review and validate the backup strategy and its relationship with your organization’s Disaster Recovery (DR) Plan.

Backing up is not as simple as hitting the “Start” button. Similarly, taking a snapshot yesterday of your data does not qualify as a usable backup today. To ensure your backup process will support your data needs, you should work with a data expert who can advise you on the best practices for avoiding technical issues that might impact your data backup and restore success such as:

  • Space requirements
  • Backup file naming conventions
  • Network access control (credentials) to data stores
  • Activated backup controls (such as alerting)
  • Backup monitoring activities built into your day-to-day operation
  • Critical and non-critical data stores
  • Security solution coverage of data stores
  • Checklists for application and data migrations
  • Network health

The key to conducting successful backups and reducing your risk of failures is understanding all of the possible technical issues that can occur.

Work with an expert to boost success and performance of your backups. Learn more here.