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Week 3: Restore a backup tape and recover usable data

It's important to regularly test your back-ups.

Backup data recovery

On a low-traffic day, 3-4 times per year, depending on the criticality of data.

Running a tape to back up data doesn't ensure usable data. Every administrator has a horror story of the "tape backup with no data on it." Variations on this theme include: "we recorded it, but then it was erased when stored in a cabinet along side a magnet," the ever-popular "it was stored in a different building, which was destroyed/moved/sold, along with the contents" and the occasional "we recorded the backup to tape, then changed our primary storage mechanism, so that when we needed to restore the tapes we had no equipment to run them on." It's better to know now than halfway through the year that your data can't be retrieved.

What are your most critical files? Try to recover e-mails from six months ago, as well as last quarter's data. Place the data back on the system to see if you can use it with the software and hardware you have in place today. This information may have to be produced for legal purposes if, for example, you are audited or need the information to trace illegal employee activity or fraud. If you use a service, choose a time period and ask them to restore those files for you on the system you are currently using.

More information
If you have a problem that you can't troubleshoot, your equipment rep and/or service agreement support personnel should be able to assist you. If you want to feel better about your technical abilities, visit These are stories from help desk personnel -- you'll be laughing and feeling better in no time!

Last week: Passwords -- Updating, selecting and recording user and administrative passwords
Next week: Disaster recovery/business continuity for hardware

About the author
Shelley Bard, CISSP, is a senior security network engineer with Verizon Federal Network Systems (FNS). An infosecurity professional for 17 years, Bard has briefed and written infosecurity assessments and technical reports for the White House and Department of Defense, special interest groups, industry and academia. Please e-mail any comments to

Opinions expressed in this column are those of Shelley Bard and don't necessarily reflect those of Verizon FNS.

This was last published in December 2003

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