How to set up a backup plan for your Windows Server

One of the most important tasks for a systems admin is that of backing up data to protect against loss. A well thought out backup plan can help ensure that all eventualities are covered and that your company can continue operating no matter what kind of disaster may occur. There are several aspects you should incorporate into your backup plan. This article should help guide you on how it’s done, regardless of what software or hardware solution you use.

  • Identify what to back up

If you want to back up everything then you are going to need plenty of tapes, or perhaps a disk backup system, and much more time than you’re likely to afford. Focus instead on the critical data that cannot be recreated and that the business cannot do without. Rank it by priority so that if you need to restore, you would know what to restore first. Create a spreadsheet or a table and review it with the business stakeholders and data owners to ensure that everyone agrees with what is being backed up and in what order it should be restored.

  • Identify when to back it up

Backups take time, consume bandwidth and may have problems with open files. Businesses with large databases, or whose operations run around the clock, may not be able to complete a full backup given an entire weekend. Set up multiple schedules based on the business schedule. Plan database backups around other activities like indexing, and ensure that maintenance windows work around the backup schedule.

  • Create a service account

Windows includes a special group called Backup Operators, which bypasses file system security so it can back up all data. Some software requires that the backup service account belongs to the domain admins group. Check your documentation and create a service account with the appropriate group memberships as well as a strong password that doesn’t expire. Run all your backups using this account. Do not use your user account for this.

  • Select your backup methodology

With limited time to complete backups, select a mix of full and either incremental or differential backups. Many companies do full backups only on weekends, and then choose either a differential or incremental strategy during the week. Never mix differential and incremental, as they are not compatible.

  • Test your restores

At least on a monthly basis, take a random selection of your backups and restore the data to an alternate location. In this way, you will confirm that you have useful data on backup. By selecting different data each month, you make sure you are not testing the same material each time, which might hide a problem with another backup set.

  • Reuse tapes carefully

Tapes have a limited lifespan. Make sure you follow the manufacturer’s directions, and securely destroy any tapes once they reach their lifespan limit.

  • Extra credit

This may not be applicable to everyone, as budgets vary, but it would be ideal if you could allocate extra credit to your plan.

  • Keep the backup traffic local

Whenever possible, back up servers to a local system. Backing up data over a WAN link can saturate the network link, and with so much less bandwidth, may never finish.

  • Establish an offsite repository

Fireproof safes aren’t heatproof. By storing tapes offsite, you are sure to be able to restore data even if you suffer a site disaster.

  • Use encryption

Storing tapes offsite means that they are leaving the confines of your physical security. Make sure that you are encrypting these tapes so that, if something goes missing, your company wouldn’t need to notify users that their personal data may be at risk. In some countries this may be legally essential, so consult your legal counsel before moving any tapes offsite unless you have enabled encryption.

Data is the lifeblood of every organization, so taking the right measures to back it up is highly important. Creating a backup plan alone might not be enough but it surely is an essential part or data security.

This guest post was provided by Ed Fischer ( ) of on behalf of GFI Software Ltd. For more information visit: GFI business backup solution.

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