February 11, 2022

How to Test a Database Backup & Recovery Plan

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If your organization’s database security is compromised, how would your operations be affected? Whether it be due to a cyber-attack, a virus, or a physical disaster, there are countless possible threats to the safety of your organization’s data. And if you aren’t worried about the effects of data loss, think again. According to a study by the British Chambers of Commerce, 93 percent of businesses that suffer extended data loss of longer than ten days file for bankruptcy within a year, and fifty percent file for bankruptcy immediately.

For situations like these, database backup and recovery plans can provide some reassurance that your data is covered – if they are successful. But if your data backup fails, you may still be unable to recover your organization’s data despite having these precautions set in place. This is why database backup and recovery plan testing are vital for organizations. 

Testing backup and recovery plans enable you to better prepare for worst-case scenarios and avoid loss of data that could interrupt production and be detrimental to the success of your organization. Read on to learn about the importance of backup and recovery plan testing and the best way to test your backup and recovery processes to ensure the safety of your company data.

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Why it is important to test your plan

When you’re free-falling out of a plane, the last thing you want to experience is the failure of your parachute to deploy. To avoid situations like these, skydiving companies constantly test their equipment to maintain proper safety for their jumpers.

While ensuring the security for your business may not seem like a life or death situation like the one I just described, let’s face it, data breaches can wreak havoc on the success of an organization. Whether you like it or not, your livelihood and your workers’ positions are dependent on your data security to keep the business safe and keep operations moving forward.

Many risks can be involved with the failure to maintain security through database backup and recovery plan testing. Loss of essential data can put businesses at risk and cause organizations to halt operations. For example, a Coveware study reflected the average downtime for businesses due to a ransomware attack to be 22 days. The inability of a company’s operations to continue for so long due to poor backup recovery plans could result in a loss of money, customers, and credibility.

If you’re not sure how to accurately test your backup and recovery plan, you’ve come to the right place. The following text will provide a step-by-step explanation of how to test your plans and maintain data safety for your organization.

Steps on testing your database backup & recovery plan

1. Familiarize yourself with your backup and recovery systems

It is crucial to ensure that your organization is familiar with the backup and recovery software and processes before you need to use them. The last thing you want in an emergency is to be confused about accessing your restored data because you or your team is inexperienced with the technology. Your organization’s IT or security staff must know about your software’s infrastructure, storage capacity, and other components of your backup systems. By having this knowledge, you will know whether your system meets your database’s needs and how to access and recover your data quickly.

2. Run tests to recover deleted or corrupted files

In the case that your files become deleted or corrupted, you should be able to rely on your backup systems to restore them to their original capacity. Testing this can confirm that your system can restore these files correctly and allows you to familiarize yourself with the process.

To begin, choose some files within the specific file system that you are testing. These files should have been recently altered or added. Next, you can create a folder for the testing process. After, you can use your backup system to locate these files and restore them to that folder. Once you have the files that the system produced, you may then compare the restored files to your actual files. 

When comparing the restored files to your actual files, you should consider any changes or alterations between the two. For example, ensure that the restored files can be opened and accessed, that they are the same size as the originals and that all of the recent updates to the original files are included in the restored ones. This will help you determine whether your system accurately restored the files and would be able to in a situation where the originals were lost.

3. Test the backup of your applications

Applications can house essential data that may be lost if they aren’t properly backed up. Similar to the process of testing your file recovery, you can run a restore of your applications. 

When comparing the restored application to the original, you should test for changes in the data contained within the application and the functionality of the application. The restored application should be accessible with a similar amount of stored data and the same capabilities as the original. 

You should look for consistency between your original and restored applications. If your restored application cannot be utilized with your original data, then your application backup cannot be considered successful.

Also read: Databricks vs. Snowflake

4. Test your database recovery

Database recovery consists of restoring the entire database, should it be compromised. This process is a bit more extensive, as you first need to ensure that the place you restore your data has the database software installed but won’t interfere with the original database. Therefore, using a separate database server or restoring the data virtually to the cloud is suggested.

Suppose you only have one database server available. In that case, you can still perform this test on the same machine that hosts the production database if it has enough space, as long as you use a separate name for the restored database to avoid the possibility of overwrites or interferences to the original database during the restoration process.

Once your software has restored the database, test the recovered database compared to the production database. This can be done by running queries against each database, running macro tests, and connecting apps to the recovered database to ensure that they function correctly.

5. Time how long it takes to back up your data

It is beneficial to test how long it takes for your system to complete the backup restoration throughout this process. This is important to be aware of since a long time for backups to process could mean more downtime for your company and consequences to your internal operations, clients, and reputation.

By taking note of the time your system takes to backup your test data, you can apply this to the amount of data necessary for your organization to function. This can enable you to determine how long your restoration process could leave your company waiting before work became possible again if an emergency wiped out the entire system. 

Knowing this information can allow you to plan for such a scenario and may help you to consider faster alternatives for backing up your data if necessary.

Also read: 5 Ways Tokenization Can Improve Database Security

6. Try testing your backup & recovery plan remotely

Many organizations utilize cloud-based applications and software systems because they are accessible from remote locations. Likewise, being able to restore your data remotely can be crucial in case of an emergency.

It is beneficial for organizations to ensure that they can access their data in an emergency, even if it must be done remotely. This could be due to several reasons, such as natural disasters damaging your company infrastructure or a system failure.

Therefore, running an offsite restore test will help you test whether your cloud-based or remotely located data can be restored and how long this would take before your company could commence operations.

7. Continue to test your database backup and recovery plan regularly

Testing your database and recovery plan can give you peace of mind, but changes to your data storage and system are ordinary for organizational networks and may cause changes in your plan’s capability to restore your data. It is because of this that many organizations conduct these tests regularly.

So how often should organizations conduct database backup and recovery testing? It is best to schedule tests regularly, such as weekly or monthly. The frequency of tests can also be based upon resource needs. For example, you can test the backup of data that is necessary to the company’s operation more frequently, as its ability to be restored is more critical.

Database backup and recovery plans should be tested on their reliability to restore data as accurately and quickly as possible. By conducting regular tests and staying on top of your backup and recovery plan’s capabilities, your organization will be more protected from potential threats.

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