We're an ISO27001:2013 Certified Supplier

Test backups

Regardless of how backups are done, it is essential that you test backups of your data from time to time. Here we discuss how you can test backups in less than ten minutes spread over a week.

What you need for backups to be successful

Backing up data is important, but we must also test backups to ensure that they were successful. In a business environment it must be possible to restore backups without relying on one specific person.


  • the restore process is documented and a copy of the documentation is kept off-site.
  • Test restores are carried out on a regular basis; for example, every six months.
  • The test restore process has the full backing of management as it will take some time and effort to run.
  • Test restores are not always run by the same people. Remember, the person who has to restore the data may not be the same person who is responsible for day to day backups.
  • The test restore process follows the documentation precisely.
  • A log is kept of test restores, including any issues encountered, and the documentation is updated in light of this experience.
  • Test restores should include full Disaster Recovery (the full rebuild and restore of a server).

To test backups in less than 10 minutes

This isn’t a rugged, comprehensive test of backups. It doesn’t take the place of Disaster Recovery testing, and it won’t prove that all your backups are fit for purpose.

What it does do it provide a good starting point. It’s a five-day plan, and it will take less than two minutes a day of your time to carry out. At the end of it, you will know that either you have a problem with your backups or that at least the basics are in place.

Here’s the day-by-day guide:

Day 1

Today, you need to create a new document and store it on your server. Let’s not call it “My Backup Test”, but rather something more realistic within your business. Put some text in this document. Mail a copy of it to your home email account.

Day 2

Open the document you created yesterday, and remove some (not all) of the text in it. Save it. Mail a copy of this version of the document to your home email account.

Day 3

Delete the document from the server. As this will take only a second or two, you could fill the remaining allocated two minutes by enjoying a cup of coffee and reading XKCD.

Day 4

Ask your IT support team to restore the document you “accidentally” deleted yesterday. When they’ve done that, compare it with the copy you mailed home on day 2.

Day 5

Ask your IT support team to restore the same document, but this time from the backup from day 1. When they’ve done that, compare it with the copy you mailed home on day 1.

The results

If the restores on days 4 and 5 match the versions you sent home, the basics of your backups are in place. You can be confident that:

  • backups are taking place
  • backups are saved for multiple days
  • your IT staff are able to carry out restores

If there are problems restoring the data or the restored data doesn’t match the original, there is clearly a problem. It’s easy to be seduced by hearing that “backups ran OK last night”, but it is the restore of the backups, not the backups taking place, that is the measure of success.

What next?

To test backups fully, a much more comprehensive test is needed, and that’s beyond the scope of this 10 minute guide. However, this test is significantly better than nothing.

If you need a hand with backups, we can help.

We also have an in-depth article about the best way to backup your systems.

Secure. Reliable. Scalable.

If that doesn't describe your current Linux systems, check out our FREE Linux Survival Guide to help you get your systems up to scratch today!

  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.