Many midsize enterprises and even some service providers think backing up means data is safe in the case of failure. The reality is surprising and scary – far too many backups cannot be restored. Often they are corrupt, or in the case of tape (which although not exactly thriving isn’t dead yet) they may have broken or degraded, or simply aren’t as up to date as they should be because a full backup hasn’t been run in months.
In today’s world, even sophisticated systems can falter during recovery. Network configurations may not be replicated properly, application dependencies are not in sync across sites, disaster recovery (DR) resources may become insufficient over time, and so on. The last thing an MSP wants is to have a client disaster compounded by a failure to restore.
Even if you can get the data back, technical problems during the process can slow down recovery. This downtime as you struggle to fix the problem is costly. In fact, it costs a stunning $9,000 per minute on average in decreased productivity, lost revenue, and other negative business impacts per The Ponemon Institute.
Many MSPs are happy providing a 99.9 percent uptime, but shortening that to 99.99 percent saves the average organization about $350,000 per month. However, this level of uptime is possible only if data protection and recovery solutions are tested regularly with issues that may slow or block recovery identified.
Too few IT shops test backups, a situation MSPs are well-situated to rectify.
Unitrends’ State of the Cloud & Data Protection 2018 report, an annual survey of backup and recovery practices, asked over 800 IT professionals whose organizations do not use an MSP how often they test their recovery capabilities. The majority of respondents reported testing their DR plans only once per year, less frequently, or not at all. Even if a shop tests once a year, it could still be exposed, as dramatic changes occur in IT infrastructure and applications over the course of a year – even rip and replacement of storage gear.
In addition, while healthcare, finance, government agencies, and public companies must follow compliance regulations, the truth is most companies have some sort of industry mandate that requires protection against loss of data and functionality. Often this means these shops need not just carry out DR protection, but they must also show that recovery technologies are tested regularly so auditors can see the results. You must ensure these clients meet their compliance requirements.
Three Backup Testing Concerns
Why hesitate to test your backups? Three concerns are frequently cited.
1. Testing takes time
Traditional test procedures are terribly time consuming. IT technicians are already overwhelmed with the day-to-day tasks of managing complex and extensive IT infrastructures, and MSPs are focused on efficient use of value-creating billable hours.
2. Testing can disrupt production systems
In many cases, test procedures bring down production systems to validate the test. If traditional restore processes are used, the ensuing downtime process can be very disruptive, leading MSPs to cut corners, resulting in false positives, high risk, and wasted time. In addition, customer infrastructures can vary greatly, causing many testing procedures to be “one-offs.”
3. Data verification downsides
Data verification sounds like just the trick. But this test merely checks that blocks or files are good after they have been backed up. This low level of testing does nothing to ensure the applications can be functionally recovered.
Other narrow tests fail to give a full picture of recovery safely, including:
– Database mounting, which verifies a database has basic functionality within backups.
– Single machine boot verification, which verifies that a single server can be rebooted after a downtime event.
– Single machine boot with screenshot verification. This goes a little past boot verification by sending an image of the operating system splash screen to administrators as proof the system can be recovered.
What Makes a Good Test?
As an MSP, you want a testing process that will identify issues that impact recovery and guarantees fast, successful recovery. With this process, issues can be addressed before an actual emergency occurs.
The highest level of testing includes multiple machines, deep application testing, SLA assessment, and analytics as to the reason any recovery failed.
Unitrends’ Recovery Assurance provides this rich backup testing and verification. It is designed to ensure that your backup data can restore your system as planned. One component of that testing is a security check for ransomware. Your backups have value only if you can use them to recover. Successful DR must be free of ransomware. Recovery Assurance allows you to assess the viability of your backup and detect ransomware, which may disrupt your ability to recover.
Recovery Assurance delivers fully automated recovery testing. Running either locally on the backup appliance or in the cloud, Recovery Assurance will automatically test and certify full business service recovery.
Using backups, your entire IT infrastructure is re-created and booted up to ensure all data and application dependencies are correct.
Learn more about how DR testing and Recovery Assurance can benefit your business.