Test Your Backups


Summer’s here. That’s thunderstorm season here in Florida. If you’ve never seen a Florida thunderstorm they’re really something. The winds blow wildly. The rain comes down so hard people pull off the side of the freeway and wait for it to stop. Lightning illuminates the sky every couple seconds.

All of this is really rough on the Florida power grid. Frequent power surges and power outages are common during this time of year. This, in turn, is really hard on computers and databases. Unexpected power cutoffs are one of the primary causes of a corrupt database.

Of course there are other reasons as well. Bad hard drives, overheating chips and problems with your operating system can all cause problems in a normally extremely stable database. It is for all these reasons that we highly recommend taking a moment to test your backup procedure. I’m sure everyone is making a backup (right?) but have you really tested it? Wouldn’t it be better to find out if your backup procedure is working now when you don’t need it, rather than when disaster strikes?

So what is involved in doing this? Not much, although you will have to beat everyone into the office so you can test the backup made the night before without worrying about overwriting any new data. Once you are at the office go to the server and log into ESC. Go to Help → About → Current Users and make sure the only computer name you see listed there is the server. If any other computers are logged in, go to their computer and log them out before continuing. If you are using the ESC Connections Server you will also have to stop that service before continuing. 

Now that you have confirmed that everyone is out of ESC except for the server you will need to find your backup file. This file will be your database name followed by the extension .dat_bak. So if your ESC database name is Service, your backup file will be called Service.dat_bak. For this to be a true test of your backup capabilities, you want to use the file that is on the backup you made on your removable media (tape, flash drive, DVD, external hard drive, etc.). Testing a backup that already exists on your hard drive isn’t much help if your hard drive crashes or your computer is fried by a power surge.

Once you find the file look at the properties to make sure the modified date matches the date and time you made the backup. If it doesn’t, keep looking. Either you are looking at the wrong file or your backup did not complete successfully. Do NOT proceed until you find a file that matches.

After you have confirmed that you have the correct file, copy it to your hard drive. You are now ready to restore your backup. Switch back to ESC and select File → Restore Your Data. Provide ESC with the folder you copied the file to on your hard drive and click Next. If you have multiple backups in the same file you will see them all on the following screen. Be sure to pick the most recent one and then finish the process.

If this all works you have successfully restored your data and can sleep soundly knowing your backup plan works flawlessly. Should you have a real emergency not only will you know that you’re covered; you’ll also know exactly how to fix the problem which should radically reduce your amount of downtime.

If any part of this procedure fails you will know that you are not adequately covered in the case of an emergency. You may wish to review the backup procedure for accuracy, or call our support team for assistance. 

So, whether you’re faced with thunderstorms, potential hardware failures or other unforeseen disasters now is a perfect time to test your backup procedure. You will not be sorry you did.

Written by Eric Rausin
Featured in July 2009 Newsletter


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