Everything Vs Targeted Backups


I’ve been in several IT environments where backups are an afterthought. After all, if your backing up the entire computer system, isn’t this the best option?

1.) How Quickly Can You Bring Backups Back Up?

If you are backing up an entire computer on a normal backup every night, that’s going to start taking a lot of space. If you decide to only do a normal backup once a week or month, then to retrieve one file you’re going to be spending a lot of time going through differential backups. However, if you are backing up the essentials to re-create the software on the server (for example, the database or configuration files), have an image of a blank server, and all backups are normal backups, then it’s fairly quick to restore. Another benefit to this is that if you only need to restore one small portion or file, then it is a lot easier.
Take away lesson: Backups are meant for restoring. The easier and quicker to restore, the better.

2.) Virtual Computers

Many virtual systems allow you to create backups using their system. This allows you to create full backups using a normal backup every night, without taking a lot of space. However, in my experience, you have to worry about the corruption of this internal backup system. I’ve had to re-build 2-3 servers for this reason alone. My opinion is to still create the traditional normal backups that take just the essential portions of these servers every night. I then like to have a separate area with a complete original working copy of the server. This copy is not updated every day or even every week. The idea is that if things went horribly wrong, you can restore this server, pull the latest files from your normal backup, and re-create this server to it’s the latest state. This approach helps prevent corruption of data as you not restoring corrupted copies of the operating system.
Take away lesson: One old copy of the server + the normal backup of targeted files makes it easier to rebuild virtual servers.

3.) Blanks

The last thing I want to mention is to always have blank virtual images or even blank disk images you can put to physical machines. This allows you to quickly install a copy of the operating system with your company’s configurations. Furthermore, this helps with building test machines, as it allows the end user to have a fresh copy of the server within 15 minutes.