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Commandment 6: Ensure that the Backup Medium Is Sound

Another temptation is to schedule a backup and move on to the next project. Don’t live so precariously. Instead, check out the backup device. If it’s a tape drive, is it cleaned regularly and operating properly? Are the tapes worn from use? Is there even a tape in the drive? Consistently I visit small business clients that claim that their daily backup routines are fine, only to discover that no tape is in the tape drive and backups haven’t completed for months.

Many small businesses require the receptionist or another office worker to always maintain a backup copy offsite. While a good theory, in practice the devil’s in the details. The receptionist or office worker may be tempted to leave the tape in the glove box of his or her car, where summer heat can destroy the tape. Check that all media being used are kept in good operating condition, whether the backup media is tape, a RAID system, or a RevDisk.

I’ve even encountered situations in which removable hard drives were employed for backups. Rather than following this uncommon practice, work to deploy a more conventional alternative, such as tapes or an offsite web-based system. (Remote data backups are one option.)

If you work with hard disks, verify that they’re formatted properly. While a FAT32 file system may work, you lose the ability to leverage file-level protections enjoyed with NTFS. Further, NTFS is essential to create file sizes exceeding 4GB. A few years ago, such file sizes may not have been an issue for small businesses, but as more organizations turn to document images for records storage, and when working with digital artwork, 4GB backups have become commonplace.

If at any time you suspect that a backup medium is failing or experiencing problems, purchase a replacement. Don’t invite disaster by entrusting data backups to potentially faulty media.

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