Let’s have a comprehensive review of the Backup Bible, the Complete Edition, a 200-page eBook. The eBook starts with a common human tendency to think optimistically about systems that are running fine. Even though I got into this feeling, this server is just fine, and it will just work like that. But the fact of the matter is you can have failures anytime. This is the first lesson you get from this book.
I have a real-world story to share here. We did plan for the ConfigMgr server DR/BCP plan for a bank back in 2006. The IT team was very optimistic that DR/BCP exercise is going to work as we planned. But we never tested/proved these scenarios in the lab or pre-production environment. To test the BCP/DR scenario, people traveled from different parts to a BCP location. The real BCP/DR test failed because ConfigMgr servers failed to deliver the applications to users’ devices.
The eBook talks about the best practices that you must follow when you produce the design. The design should include comprehensive coverage of catastrophic failures. You can be optimistic about your DR plans, but continuous review and testing of the DR/BCP plan are important to avoid failures. This eBook gives us an end-to-end experience about the importance of planning and actions. The checklists provided in this eBook for DR/BCP planning are useful in real-world scenarios.
Let’s give you the context about the Backup Bible project produced by Altaro and written by Microsoft MVP Eric Siron. The aim is to produce a definitive guide to backup and disaster recovery for companies of all sizes. The Backup Bible Complete Edition works as a great reference guide for all IT admins and anyone interested in protecting organizational data.
There are three parts to the Backup Bible Complete Edition. In my experience, planning disaster recovery is equally important as the implementation of DR plans.
- Getting Started with Disaster Recovery Planning.
- Backup Best Practices in Action.
- Disaster Recovery & Business Continuity Blueprint
Negative Attitude & Risk
I’m sure most of those IT teams with a negative attitude towards disaster recovery planning and reviews might have struggled to deliver their services during the Covid. The ebook author, Eric, clearly mentioned the importance of a positive attitude towards the DR/BCP exercise.
The eBook covers the common risk factors of an organization. You can go through the common risk factors given in the eBook and find additional risk factors for your organization. This exercise helps to have better visibility of risk factors for the organization. The DR plan should cover mitigation plans of each risk factor.
I think the following free templates available with this eBook is useful for planning:
- Checklist for Meetings in the Planning Phase
- Key Stakeholders table
- Risk Identification template
- List of Common Risks
RTO, RPO, and Retention
I like Eric’s approach towards business planning related to DR and BCP design. It would help if you talked to different teams to define your organization’s appropriate RTO, RPO, and Retention policy objectives. As per the author, the following are the three pillars of DR/BCP strategy.
- RTO – Recovery Time Objective
- RPO – Recovery Point Objective
I felt the list of questions and examples that the author wants you to ask team members to help you get the details you are looking for. Some of the sample questions are given below to give you an idea.
- How much does this system cost us per hour when offline?
- Corrupted data: RPO of 1 hour after corruption detection, using on-site hourly backups
- How long will the data have value?
Another important aspect highlighted in the book is finding the “fine” balance between shorter RTOs + RPOs + lengthier retention and cost. This is one part of the critical decision for a disaster recovery business plan.
Disaster Recovery – Technical Strategy
The author gives an end-to-end overview of technical strategy in terms of disaster recovery plans. First of all, you need to understand the organization’s technology echo system through the discovery phase. The fault-tolerant and high availability are the two pillars for disaster recovery technology strategy. With these two pillars, you are already getting a lot of DR design covered.
In this book, Eric goes into detail about Hard Disk fault-tolerance considerations like RAID configuration. The good part of this eBook is that the author shares his experience about the negative sides of the technical components. He tries to balance technical options with implementation + operational cost considerations for each design, which helps decision-makers plan DR strategy.
Well, he closes the planning section with two useful documents:
- The Information Technology Department Checklist
- Data Protection Questionnaire
Backup Best Practices
You can learn more about the best practices to have a complete backup strategy. The second part of the Complete Backup Bible is concentrated on implementation best practices.
You can get help from this part of this eBook to better understand the hardware and software selection process.
The author expands on the following three topics to a better experience with implementing the complete backup solution.
- Backup software
- Backup storage
- Security strategy
Software & Storage Selections
Most of the (large) organizations go through an RFP process for software and hardware vendor selection. In my experience, that is one of the best frameworks to assess the capabilities of services. I think RFPs can introduce an organization to high-quality vendor partners.
Eric explains the hardware and software vendor selection process in the fullest technical details in the Complete Edition Backup Bible eBook. He talks about:
- How to conduct in-depth software testing?
- Do we still need Magnetic tape backup?
- Is it better to use Optical media in a backup solution?
- Cloud Storage is an option for all types of data?
- Which is the fast and reliable backup solution?
Documentation and monitoring of backup systems should be in place as best practices. Also, it’s important to update the documentation within regular intervals. It’s also important to follow the security best practices. The author explains all these topics in eBooks.
Non Technical Preparation Guidelines
Eric shifts gears in the third part of the eBook to get buy-in from business stakeholders. You might have a great technical plan for backup/disaster recovery/business continuity. But the pivotal part of all these is departments to prepare themselves and to maintain operational continuity.
Business leaders should consider non-technical topics and be ready to have operational continuity. This section of the book’s main takeaway is surviving, working through, and recovering from major and minor disasters that affect their departments, customers, and interactions with other businesses.
The following are some of the non-technical topics given in the Complete Edition of Backup Bible eBook that business leaders should take care of.
- Other Items needed for operational continuity
Recovery Sites, Replication, and Cloud
The author also gives details about the various recovery site options as part of recovery architecture. He also explains how you should define a replication strategy based on the type of recovery site.
You need to understand the business needs before selecting the one recovery (secondary) site option. The ongoing maintenance of secondary sites is also essential. He also explains the following types of recovery sites:
- Hot Secondary Sites
- Warm Secondary Sites
- Cold Secondary sites
Since the backup tape was first introduced, replicating data between the sites has changed disaster recovery more than anything else. Eric explains how to define replication between the sites based on the recovery site selection.
Another important point the author highlights in this book is the difference between backup and replication. Do not replace Backup with Replication. Backup and replication have similar features, but you cannot use them interchangeably.
There are details given about the different types of replication in the book. The selection process of replication design and cloud-based solutions is explained in the book, which helps organizations make the best decisions.
- Synchronous Replication
- Asynchronous Replication
Testing is Essential
Well, regular testing of disaster recovery systems is essential. I do recommend performing the testing in a pre-production environment. It’s also necessary to schedule mock tests regularly to make sure everything is working as expected.
The following are the topics Eric explained in chapter 18 to understand various test scenarios better.
- Test Backup data with restore operations
- Test Backup data with automated operations
- Test Copy data with the changes of geographically distributed clusters
- Test Replication
The BACKUP BIBLE – The complete guide to protecting your data gives end-to-end coverage on Disaster Recovery/Business Continuity Plan for any business type. I like the non-technical and process-oriented thought process highlighted in the book. This helps to cover business operation scenarios very well.
The checklists, Key Stakeholders table, Risk Identification template, etc… provided in the appendix section of this guide answers many questions I get from the community.
- Do you have a template for this?
- Do you have a checklist for this?
The flow diagrams in the eBook are engaging elements of the eBook. I like the structure of the book, and it’s easy to understand. The cloud side of the thinks is explained in the eBook, but I felt that that could be an opportunity to have a second edition of this book with more cloud focus.
Sure, it’s not the most exciting aspect of an IT administrator’s job, but having a reliable and secure backup and disaster recovery strategy could be the most important thing you do. Also, check my quick notes about the Free 200 Pages eBook on Backup & Disaster Recovery | BCP.
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