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Cranky Series: Test Restores. Frequently.


August 28, 2012 by Mike Hillwig

I’m a firm believer that while backups are important, restores are absolutely essential.
Any DBA will be able to tell you how long their backups take. But can they tell you how long it takes to restore that same database?

Yes, it’s important to back up your data. But do you know you can get it back in case of an emergency? Seriously. When was the last time you tested it?

What happens if you change backup software. Do you have the compatible restore software available in your DR facility?

Trust me on this one nugget of advice: When you can’t restore a database after something has gone terribly wrong, you will watch your career flash before your eyes. And that knot in your stomach is a feeling you don’t forget soon. ¬†Fortunately in my case, the server we used to do the restore during an audit had a slightly older version of Quest’s LiteSpeed for SQL Server than our production server. As soon as we upgraded the software, things ran smoothly. But that was the longest ten minutes of my life.

Let’s say you can get your data back as of the last full backup. And lets say you can even roll your transaction logs forward. But do you know how to restore your payroll system to the point right before someone posted an erroneous check run? Restoring data from disk is easy. But can you figure out how to restore to a certain point in a business process?

And you know those tapes or hard drives you send off to the mine every week? When was the last time you tried to recover one of those? I’ve seen situations where people needed to restore an older backup from long term storage only to realize they had changed their backup software and didn’t have their old software anymore.

These are important factors. And not keeping them in mind could be a career limiting move.