Zen and the Art of IT Backup
Principle 1 - Scope
Excited, the new apprentice jumped right into his Master’s training server.
The apprentice asked, “Master what files should I backup?”
The Master replied, “Does not the mother bird care for all her fledglings? Will not the shepherd watch over his entire flock? Therefore, one must backup all files in one’s care, no matter how small or insignificant we consider them to be. Each file has its importance and must not be overlooked.”
The apprentice was excited to perform his first backup, so he said “I will backup all my important files, but not system and program files, as they can always be reinstalled from the CDs that came with the computer and programs.”
The Master said nothing.
The next day the hard disk on the Master’s training server crashed. Two days later, the apprentice was still trying to find the CDs.
Lesson to Learn: Backup ALL your Data
Principle 2 – Repetition
On a fine spring day, the apprentice approached the Master and asked, “Master, after I had restored the training server last month, I backed up ALL of the data and haven’t backed it up since. So, Master, I wonder how often should I perform the backup process?”
The Master replied, “The world is constantly changing, as does your data. As the world changes, you must adapt. As your data changes, so must that data be backed up.”
The apprentice said, “I work all day long, every day.
“Therefore you must backup all day long, on every day,” the Master stated.
“I see the logic Master, but I don’t have time to make a backup, as I am much too busy,” the apprentice complained.
As if on cue, the power went off, the room went black, and the Master let out a faint sigh.
Lesson to Learn: Continuously Backup
Principle 3 – Distribution
The apprentice was now feeling confident. He was backing up ALL his data, and backing it up as he worked. He approached the Master and asked, “Master, now that I am consistently backing up all my files, have I reached backup awareness?”
“Young grasshopper,” the Master instructed. “You have learned well to backup all of your files, and have been mindful to continuously protect your work, but you cannot achieve Zen until you distribute your backups far and wide. Does the gossipmonger keep her secrets to herself? So long as your backups are in one place, they are subject to the whims of fortune.”
The apprentice ignored the Master’s advice, as he presumed his backup was stored safely in the Master’s training temple; but a powerful storm descended in the night and blew away the temple and all its contents. The apprentice was frantic, “Master the storm has destroyed my computer and all my backups. What am I to do?
“Do not despair,” the Master comforted the apprentice, “for yesterday I added all the files in the training temple systems to our online backup which distributes the files far and wide way beyond the reach of the storm and other potential chaos.”
Lesson to Learn: Keep Backups Offsite
Principle 4 – History
The apprentice was appreciative of the Master, and had restored all his files from the online backup. He had learned his lesson.
Six months later he approached the Master saying, “I have backed up all my files, and do so as I work, and make sure to distribute them far and wide. I no longer have need of your online backup to the remote backup temples for my files.”
“So be it, I will free up my storage, and remand the responsibility to the apprentice,” stated the Master. “Now, quickly, go and examine your systems.”
The apprentice examined his systems and discovered a virus had infected hundreds of important, but rarely used files. He restored his day-old backup, but found those files were infected. He remembered he had made a temporary backup a month before. He loaded this backup and found it to be corrupt as well. As he scoured his systems, he found the virus had struck four months before.
He rushed to the Master and said, “Master, your backup temple has the only virus-free backup!” But the Master had already ordered the storage erased.
The Master stated, “The apprentice must respect and care for his backups, as you respect and care for your elders, for one day he will rely on them to provide wisdom and knowledge.”
Lesson to Learn: Keep Old Backups
Principle 5 – Verification
The apprentice kept his notes in a document that he saved on his computer frequently.
It had all his important information concerning everything he had learned from the Master.
One day while working on his notes, the Master issued an urgent request of the apprentice. A palace contingent was coming to visit the Master and the apprentice was to travel to the village to obtain fare for the event. In his haste, the apprentice typed the Master’s list of supplies into a new document, but overwrote his training notes.
At first he despaired, but the apprentice was confident because he backed up all his files consistently as he worked, he distributed them far and wide, and kept a history of his old backups. So he loaded his day-old backup to restore his notes file, and found that his backup had failed. He went back a week, 2 weeks, a month; they had all failed. He had to go back 2 months before he found a good backup.
The Master quietly stated, “To trust in your backup is only half the task. Without the ability to restore your files, is to backup in vain.”
Lesson to Learn: Test your Backups
Principle 6 – Security
The apprentice diligently applied security measures about the training temple network system.
He installed firewalls to keep the hackers and crackers out. He configured virus, spyware, and malware protection to keep his data safe. The apprentice instituted a strong password policy that mandated complexity, expiration, and enforcement. He was proud of the substantial security measures he had undertaken.
“Master, my security measures have made our facility all but impenetrable,” the apprentice beamed with pride. “Truly I have protected our data!”
Later that night during the evening meal, the apprentice picked up his napkin and found a backup tape from the training temple, labeled with yesterday’s date. The Master had picked up the tape that day while in the training temple, which lay on the table next to the backup device. A post-it note was affixed to the tape which read: “Sometimes, in life, we insist on focusing on the complicated and technical, while neglecting the mundane and simple.”
Lesson to Learn: Secure your Backups
Principle 7 – Continuity
The apprentice had now studied for many months and felt sure he had achieved the Art of IT Backup.
“Master,” the apprentice declared. “I consistently backup all my data, keep copies of both current and historical on-site and off. I test my backups and keep them safe and secure. Tomorrow we take final exams using our computer network. Surely, once I pass the exams I will have attained the Zen of the Art of IT Backup?!”
“Ahh, grasshopper,” the wise Master retorted. “You have worked hard, but you have not learned patience. Always remember, although what may look like readiness may not be so. Always be prepared.” The apprentice did not understand and became frustrated.
The apprentice studied hard that night preparing for the exams to be given first thing in the morning. At the break of dawn he was stationed at his computer in the lab, confident he would ace his exam and show he had attained Zen.
The Master stood at the head of the lab when his assistant ran into the room. “Master,” the assistant panted, “the exam server has crashed, and the part to fix it has to be special ordered and won’t come in until next week.”
The Master looked at the apprentice and just shook his head.
Lesson to Learn: Make sure you can restore your backups quickly
The Moral of Our Story
The apprentice worked hard and reflected over the teachings of the Master.
During the trials and tribulations of backup, he learned. From that learning he became humble. The Master was pleased.
“Master,” the apprentice spoke softly, “you have been kind to impart your knowledge to a lowly apprentice such as myself. Over the past year I have not shown myself worthy.”
“My young apprentice, you have shown great persistence. You have learned the 7 Principles of IT Backup, namely, Scope, Repetition, Distribution, History, Verification, Security, and Continuity,” the Master stated.