Small Business Server Backup Strategy Framework

January 24, 2014 by iWeb Technologies in: Web Hosting Articles

Use this framework when starting your backup strategy, or for help when setting up a cost-effective strategy with a iWeb hosting expert.

The framework consists of four main elements, to approach separately, plus approaches to restoring your entire server. Good server backup services offer the flexibility to address each of these framework elements separately, using file exclusion to pick only the folders and files you want to back up. That means a good backup strategy can not only save your data from being lost, it can save you money every day.

server backup strategy framework

Framework based on this video blog post by Internap.

1. Operating system (OS)

You may need to restore your Operating System if some of its files are damaged or your server hardware fails. Make sure you’re in a position to understand if you have the right level of protection to perform this kind of restore, and how to proceed should you need to restore your OS. How you restore your OS will depend on your hosting provider. At iWeb an engineer can reinstall your OS, or if you have a server with the easy functionality of the Smart Layer, you can perform this task in one click. Some other backup methods include:

  • Standardized OS images that can be quickly restored (example: Internap)
  • Server Image Snapshots. Done consistently, can be used to restore your entire server (example: iWeb Cloud Servers)
  • Bare-Metal Restore that can restore your entire server. (example: R1Soft Server Backup bare-metal restore).
  • VM Clone. Done consistently, a simple way to back up your entire server (example: vmware on a dedicated private cloud).

2. Operating system configuration files

You may want to back up your configuration files, as well as the applications you installed on your operating system, such as the web server or database service. Otherwise when restoring your OS, or following a hardware failure, you will lose your configurations. An alternative to backing up your configuration files is to use a configuration management system to deploy those applications, or deploy those configuration changes after you’ve installed the server. Services such as Chef allow you to always ensure your server is configured the same every time, whether you’re restoring from a server crash or deploying new servers because you need additional capacity.

3. Application code

Application code might include your website code, your content management system (Wordpress, Drupal etc), an application framework or database software (MySQL, SQL etc) or any other application or application framework (e.g. MS SharePoint). These program files are important files to backup. If you use a backup service which lets you choose/exclude files, you should back up these files unless you have a specific reason not to.

If you use a deployment workflow for your website, you may not need to backup your files, as this would usually mean you have a source version of your website and perhaps a staging website (perhaps even with version control). If your website code is up to date on a different server (for example your staging server), you can push this live. If you have version control, you can even roll back to an earlier version of your website.

Certain applications may have their own application-specific backup services available, either from the software provider or from a third party. SharePoint, for example, has its own OOTB backup/restore toolset. Windows Server offers a comprehensive backup manager (Windows Server Backup) that includes functionality for backing up applications & data across the Microsoft platform.

4. Application & user data

User and application data notably includes dynamic website content (for example, the content added by users of your Content Management System), application user data, customer or business data, or just about any other database content or files that users have uploaded to the server. Dealing with this continuously updating, living and greatly varying data is when a good backup management system can come into its own, helping to save you time, money and disappointment. By choosing the files, folders or types of files you wish to backup and how frequently these should be saved, you can properly plan the availability of data, the restore points, the speed to restore backed up data and the economic decision of which data is worth backing up.

Data availability can be further improved by using active-passive server clusters, where a hot copy of your database provides a redundant backup that is automatically used in a failover situation, ensuring data availability in real time.

Some types of personal data, in some industries, may be required by law to be hosted on a separate backup server (as opposed to a shared or cloud environment). Similarly there may be rules as to where (in which country or jurisdictions) you can host personal data.

5. System restore

The two main full-system restore methods, both mentioned several times above, are:

  • Consistent (and well managed) VM, server or volume images
  • Bare-Metal Restore functionality of a server backup service

If you are hosting mission critical servers in house, you should consider IaaS as an alternative in order to avoid failures, downtime and data loss, as well as to have access to wider variety of backup solutions and on-demand support. At the very least, you should have a well thought through plan of action should your entire server fail.

Backup stories or tips to share? Let us know by commenting below using Facebook.

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