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How Reliable are your Backups?

A good backup strategy is important with any information system. It is simple enough to reinstall software from the original distribution media. However, the data we entered is not easily recovered without a good backup.

Often, an organization’s information technology department (IT) uses automatic overnight processes to back up servers. Although the IT department assumes responsibility for this task, it is important to verify their backups.

First, test the backup by attempting to recover yesterday’s LimsData file. Not only will you ensure that you can recover the file but in doing so you will test the process and learn how long it will take to recover your data.

Second, you should verify that the overnight backups utilize revolving media sets. That is, a different tape (or other media) must be used each night of the week. To understand the importance of media sets, imagine the following scenarios:

After the close of normal business on a Friday evening, a server crash results in a corrupt LimsData file. The IT department restores server operation and the overnight backup runs normally. However, if using a single tape, the new backup overwrites the previous night’s backup. Both the server hard drive and the backup media now contain a corrupt LimsData file, and the valid data from Thursday night has been overwritten and is gone. We have seen this situation occur, and the only available option was to restore LimsData from the previous week’s tape, resulting in the loss of the entire week’s data.

Imagine a second scenario: On Wednesday you decide to clean up LimsData prior to compacting (see ”Compact Routinely” in this newsletter). You use the Delete Samples option to eliminate the dozens of samples you had logged for testing and training purposes only. On Thursday, you discover that you inadvertently deleted more samples than you should have. However, if the Wednesday night backup replaced Tuesday night’s backup on a single tape, there is no way to recover the lost samples. It could happen.

Without distinct backups for each day of the week, preserved on distinct media, there is no easy way to recover from either of the two scenarios above. Your LimsData file is an enormous asset. Therefore, we recommend distinct backups for each of the previous five and preferably seven days. If you discover that your servers are not backed up to at least alternate media sets each night of the week, you can implement your own strategy. One method is suggested below.

Third, regardless of your IT department’s backup strategy, we recommend performing your own backups by copying LimsData from the server to a local workstation. Search the internet for step-by-step instructions to set up a backup plan for your operating system.

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