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Regardless of the backup methodology used, it is essential that “test restores” of data are carried out periodically to verify the integrity of backup. Ideally:

  • 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 Linux Backups In Less Than Ten Minutes

This isn’t a rugged, comprehensive test of backups, but it is a good starting point. It’s a five-day plan, and will take less than two minutes a day if all is working well.

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.

Summary

You’ll now know whether or not:

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

That isn’t an all-singing, all-dancing backup test, but it’s significantly better than nothing. If both of the restorations match the originals, you should be able to sleep well at night (at least as far as backups are concerned). If they don’t match, well, there’s some work to do – but at least you’re aware of the problem.

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