Best Practices to Protect and Backup Your SQL Servers

by Mar 20, 2020

One of the most important jobs a DBA has is keeping their databases safe and protected. While performance is a critical factor in database administration, if the systems are unavailable it doesn’t matter how fast they respond to user requests. The ability to quickly restore databases with valid backups is a crucial component of a robust IT strategy. 

Why Backups are Important

There are many reasons why you may need to use a backup to recover an SQL Server database. Some of them are:

  • Ransomware attacks that encrypt your databases and hold them for ransom.
  • Other types of malware attack that cause you to abandon a specific piece of hardware.
  • Rolling back faulty changes that corrupt a database.
  • Bringing up a test system that replicates a production database.
  • Migrating databases to a cloud provider.
  • Disaster recovery to address large-scale and unexpected events.
  • Cleaning up after that new guy who just accidentally blew away an important database.
  • Demonstrating compliance with regulatory standards that demand backups as part of overall data protection initiatives.

I’m sure you can come up with other reasons where the availability of verified backups can be instrumental in keeping your systems up and yourself employed. The increasing dependency on virtualization and cloud computing adds a level of complexity to the challenge of creating valid backups of your SQL Servers.

Tips for Backing Up SQL Servers

Microsoft, the developers of SQL Server, has a set of best practices that form a great foundation for any database team to follow. IT departments that ignore these tips do so at their own risk.

  • Use separate storage for backups. Keeping the backups on the same physical disk that holds the database risks losing both if the device fails.

  • Choose the right recovery model for your installation. Either a simple or full recovery model can be used based on business requirements. Full recovery requires transaction log management and more administrative overhead but minimizes the exposure to work loss.

  • Design a backup strategy while considering the specific details of the database under review. Factors to look at include:
    • Identifying an off-peak timeframe in which to perform full database backups.
    • The frequency of updates and changes will determine you need differential or log backups to supplement full backups.
    • Determine how much space is required for full database backups.
    • Decide how long backups must be maintained to meet business needs.

  • Schedule backups to avoid potential oversights that accompany a manual process. Backups can be performed while transactions are occurring with little impact on the database.

  • Test the backups. This critical step is often overlooked, leading to a false sense of security until the backups are required to be used. A problem can quickly escalate to a disaster if unverified backups cannot recover the systems they were meant to protect. Backups should be tested and verified regularly to ensure that your team doesn’t run into this issue at the worst possible time.

  • Document the backup and recovery strategy including the location of the backups, backup device names, and the expected time needed to restore the system. A plan should exist for each database.

  • Security concerns also make encrypting your backups an essential step in protecting your databases. Backup media can be subjected to unauthorized access and expose your enterprise to a data breach. Encryption keeps your backups safe.

The Right Tool for SQL Server Backups

Using the right tool for your SQL Server backups can have a tremendous impact on the level of protection your systems enjoy. It can streamline procedures and add functionality that cannot be achieved with a manual backup strategy. IDERA’s SQL Safe Backup is an excellent solution for database teams tasked with protecting an SQL Server environment. The application works with your real or virtual database instances that are located in-house or with a cloud provider.

SQL Safe Backup directly addresses many of the best practices that should be followed by a database team. Advanced encryption using 128-bit and 256-bit AES technology can be employed with minimal backup performance degradation. Backups can be mirrored to multiple locations during a single backup operation. The tool integrates with enterprise and cloud storage solutions, allowing for flexible backup and recovery strategies to be implemented.

Policy-based management allows automated backup and log shipping procedures to be implemented across the SQL Server environment. A centralized console and dashboard view can be used for monitoring and managing the backups throughout the enterprise. Alerts generated on backup operations such as successes, failures, and misses let the team stay on top of any issues affecting their ability to protect database resources. Keeping your databases safe is easy with SQL Safe Backup.