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Do You Have a Disaster Recovery Plan?

One of the best things ever done in the mainframe era involved having a disaster recovery plan and occasionally running disaster "drills." I was once involved in such a drill. We grabbed our tapes, jumped on a plane, flew to a backup site, and got our mainframe up and running, as well as our databases. If you want to test a backup plan and verify that everything you need is being backed up, run one of these drills. It's amazing how many things you forget. Interesting questions might arise, such as does your backup site have the same brand/model of tape drive available? Did you remember to get the software you need in your backups?

Some typical items to consider including in your plan are the following:

  • Windows NT/2000 on CD

  • The latest service pack for Windows NT/2000

  • A SQL Server 2000 CD, along with the latest service pack

  • Any application-specific software or external DLLs (extended stored procedures) you've incorporated into SQL Server, including third-party backup and recovery software (if used)

  • Your backups

You don't necessarily have to jump on a plane if you have the discipline to make sure no one cheats and grabs that last file you need off the network or sneaks back to her desk. You can also ask yourself these questions:

  • Do you know what drive SQL Server is installed on?

  • Do you know what character set and sort order were used?

  • Which network libraries are installed?

  • Do you know the network account SQL Server was using?

  • What drives and filenames are used for each database?

  • What mail profile was used to automate email with SQL Server?

You get the idea. If you have more than one SQL Server, dealing with such a disaster can quickly become unmanageable without a plan. Perhaps this plan requires some serious thought before a disaster occurs. Remember that disasters can happen at any time. Floods, fire, ice storms, tornadoes, hurricanes, earthquakes, volcanoes, sabotage, and self-inflicted problems (a poorly written transaction, for example) are all real problems in various parts of the world, perhaps even in your area.

Where Do You Keep Your Backup Tapes?

Do you keep your backup tapes in your desk? On top of the server? In the tape drive on the server? I've heard all these answers before. If an earthquake has just leveled your building (and perhaps all the buildings around yours as well), can you still get to your building, let alone your backup tapes? You should invest in an offsite storage location for your tapes. Some companies simply have an employee rotate them to his house. A better solution for relatively small databases is to look into a safe deposit box at a bank. For larger backups, tape vault companies specialize in safe, secure offsite storage. Most reputable tape vault companies deliver and pick up tapes, and should even pick them out and bring them to you in an emergency (for a nominal fee). You should inspect the vault and verify that the company has taken adequate precautions (and security has been addressed) to protect one of your company's most valuable assets—its data.

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