How do you know your backups will work when you need them? If you search for “backups failed” in Google you will get more than 1.2 million results, so this is certainly not an isolated incident. Though boring, there is an easy way to increase your odds that the backups will be there when you need them and that is testing. Fortunately, with the plethora of cloud-based hosting offerings, testing is getting cheaper and faster.

Why Data Recovery Fails?

Nothing is worse to go to your backups in pinch and discover that the backups cannot be restored. Data recovery failures typically happen for a few reasons:

  • Corruption of original files
  • Network errors during backup process
  • Hardware failures on the backup systems
  • Backup software errors

I tried to find some industry estimates about backup failures but could not find anything conclusive. I’ve see numbers as high as 10% and as low as 0.001%. The failure rate likely depends on the technology, frequency and backup method you are using.

To be certain your backup plan is working, you must test your restore procedures. Cloud services provide an inexpensive way to test your data recovery plans.

Backup and Restore Testing

To run a trial restore, you often need to provision hardware similar to that of your production systems. If you need to test a web site, you may not need servers as powerful as your production operations but you will certainly need systems with similar disk capacity and sufficient resources to run a functional test. You could order another dedicated server and run the test; however, you will likely only need the system for a few days. With most dedicated server contracts running monthly or longer, this is overkill for this purpose. Fortunately, this is where cloud services can help.

Cloud Servers

rackAID does a lot of work with SoftLayer. I am usually out to visit their HQ at least once a year. One of the great tools they have is bare-metal cloud instances that are billed by the hour. Yes, you can lease a dedicated server by the hour.

If your production operations are not virtualized, then the bare-metal cloud instances provide the best hardware match. You can spin up the cloud instance and start your data recovery process.
At rackAID, we use R1Soft’s CDP software to power our remote backup service. This makes testing data recovery plans easy.

We simply:

  1. Order a cloud server instance
  2. Launch the R1Soft bare-metal recovery too
  3. Fix up the network settings.
  4. Reboot and test.

That’s it. We recently completed this process for a client and it took about 2.5 hours from start to finish.

Benefits of Recovery Testing

Aside from knowing that your backups work, there are several other benefits to recovery testing:

  • Get an idea of how long it will take to recovery.
  • Establish post recovery procedures.
  • Improve data recovery plans.

Data Restores

So do you test your backup and restore procedures? If yes, what systems and tricks do you use?