Guidance on prudent backup procedures

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First, check ALL your backups EVERY DAY. Failure to confirm your backups risks losing all your data. Don't take that gamble! Assign this task to multiple staff to increase the chance that it actually gets done, so that if an error arises it will be found out and can be dealt with it. While Goodin Associates can assist as needed with client data backup issues, the responsibility for checking and maintaining iSeries and Imaging local and online backups falls to the client.

The following guidance applies to your local (on-location) backup practices.


When you first purchase a new iSeries/AS400 or PC JIMS Imaging system through Goodin Associates, our practice, unless instructed otherwise, is to set you up with either a local (on-location) hard drive or tape backup system: one for the iSeries and another separate one for Imaging.

New tape backup systems typically include (1) tape drive cleaning cartridge, (5) daily backup tapes, basic instructions for daily tape rotation, and procedures for checking that the tape backups are working. Instructions may include running the tape drive cleaning cartridge monthly, or as needed. The recommended tape rotation procedure would include taking the most recent successful backup tape to a SECURE off site location. This point is two-fold: First, if a disaster were to befall your office, you could find yourself without a system and without a backup. Second, each of your backup tapes contains a copy of your data. Therefore, you should maintain all your backups in SECURE locations, especially when taking them off site.

New hard drive backup systems typically include (2) large RMS hard drives and procedures for checking that the hard drive backups are working. These drives come with new iSeries systems: they cannot be added to older AS400s. Our guidance on hard drive backups differs from that on tape backups insofar as clients keep the same hard drive in place until that hard drive is full. Depending on your amount of iSeries data, each drive can store a year's worth of daily iSeries backups. You still need to do a daily check that the backups are working, but GAL will monitor hard drive capacity and let you know when it's time to swap hard drives. The newly filled drive should be taken to your secure off-site location, and the other drive put in its place. We initialize the swapped drive, and the recording of daily backups to it begins anew.

While our approach to basic backups provides a fairly reasonable level of data protection, the advent of newer processes and technologies offers you more options for even greater data security.


Reasons to ENHANCE your backup regimen

  1. Hardware problems: Forgot to check the success of your daily backups? Suppose you forgot for a week, and didn't realize that there's a problem with the backup, which could result in having erased or corrupted every one of your recent backups. Now suppose you experience a system hard drive crash the same week.

  2. Fire, water damage, theft, vandalism: Does the backup you took off location actually contain a good current backup?

  3. Large scale disaster: A tornado could wipe out your courthouse and your off-site tape storage location.

  4. Data corruption: A file can get corrupted by user or hardware error. It would help to have access to an older version of a file to compare it to the suspected corrupt file. Consider an instance of internal sabotage, where an authorized user has been deleting data for weeks. It would be helpful to have a monthly or yearly backup to review and compare, from which to restore if needed.

Recommend #1: If you're using tape backups, get additional tapes and take backups out-of-rotation

If your practice is limited to rotating (5) daily backup tapes, what will you do if you discover corrupt or deleted data two weeks after the fact? We recommend the following:

  1. Purchase additional tapes and use them as spares and to take tapes out of regular rotation.

  2. Consider maintaining nine (9) appropriately-sized backup tapes: (5) to cover each weekday, (1) for a weekly rotation, (1) for a monthly/quarterly rotation, (1) for an annual rotation, and (1) spare.

  3. Keep organized by marking tapes and tape cases in a way that facilitates your rotation schedule. Since tapes taken out of rotation will vary, you might mark your tapes with a number, and tape cases with a name, e.g. with (9) tapes, mark the tapes “1-9,” and the tape cases “Mon, Tue, Wed, Thu, Fri, Weekly, Monthly, Annual, Spare.”

  4. Keep tapes in a case when not in use to avoid confusion, but also to ensure tape longevity and data integrity. Exposure to the environment can be a tape killer.

  5. Designate secure tape-friendly locations to store your tapes. In-house, this location should provide room to maintain your tape organization. Both in-house and off-site locations should provide your tapes protection from exposure to extreme temperatures, like near a window or vent. The locations should also shield tapes from electromagnetic exposure which can radiate from equipment such as the iSeries/AS400, other computers, a microwave and so on. Above all, this location should be secure.

  6. Take/maintain your daily and your monthly/quarterly and annual tapes to a secure off-site location.

  7. DO NOT leave tapes taken off-site in your car. THINK SECURITY. This is a copy of your data.

Recommend #2: Use the GAL Online Backup Services for the iSeries/AS400 and PC JIMS Imaging

These services offer a layer of data protection in addition to your tape or hard drive backup regimen. They are modestly priced, and require almost no effort on your part.

While offering great data protection as well as other advantages, online backups are NOT a replacement for local (on-location) backups. Local backups continue to play a very important role in protecting your data. For instance, while the GAL iSeries/AS400 Online Backup includes versioned backups, the GAL Imaging Online Backup Service behaves differently. Its advantages, such as near-real-time coverage rather than once a day, are accomplished by continuously mirroring your Imaging document files. Deleted documents are not mirrored, so we can help you restore something you accidentally delete. But all other changes, including modification or corruption of a file, will also exist in the backup copy. On such occasions, access to an older copy/backup of your image files, as could be obtained from an out-of-rotation backup would be required.

For more information, please contact Goodin Associates, Ltd. Ask for Kurt Facco.