Local USB Backup Gone Bad – A True Story

Needless to say, Dr.Backup‘s back office computers perform nightly online backups of our business-critical data files. However, in addition to the off-site backups, we also depend on a local backup to periodically snap an image of our critical systems.

One of our back office computers runs Microsoft Windows Server 2008. It’s a fairly new server and hasn’t really given us much trouble. Recently, things got weird so I figured it was time for a reboot.

After issuing the restart command, the console turned blue and displayed the “shutting down” message. I watched the swirling icon on the monitor for about 30 minutes, and finally figured it was time to move on — so I pushed the button and cycled the power.

Soon after, beeps and whirls could be heard. The system restarted and things seemed back to normal. But were they?

The next day, fearing that a forced reboot and failure to restart could be a harbinger of things to come, I wanted to make double sure that my local Windows disk backup was still functioning correctly.

It took hours to build our system and I certainly didn’t want to start from scratch if ‘Murphy’ was gong to rear his ugly head! After scrounging around, I found the standard windows backup status display. Below are screen shots of what I saw.

Server Backup Error ScreenServer Backup Screen 2

The most recent local backup did fail. Had the reboot issue not prompted me to check the backup status log, who knows when/if I ever would have noticed that there was a problem. A real emergency would have likely resulted in a sleepless night of server rebuilding!!!

As it turns out, my backup disk media was an external USB drive. When I was forced to do the power cycle, I cycled the server box – but NOT the USB drive. When the server rebooted, it did not recognize/mount the USB drive. This caused the local backups to fail.

Windows did log an innocuous “backup failed” message, which was tucked away in the voluminous event log…never to be seen by human eyes.

In this case, the fix was easy. I simply unplugged and replugged the USB drive into the computer. It was immediately recognized and available for the next backup – which was successful. (Of course the problem could have also been a failed external drive requiring hardware replacement — but not this time.)

This event got me to thinking about how many of us depend exclusively on unmanaged local backups to protect critical business data. I wonder what percentage of the local backups are “broke” right now? …and how many businesses are completely vulnerable to extreme data loss and don’t even know it.

A business-class online backup service like Dr.Backup provides a valuable safety-net for critical data files. Had Dr.Backup‘s own back office computer crashed, it would have been a nuisance to rebuilt from scratch – but at least we would have been able to download our critical data from the Internet and continue to serve our clients.

For most businesses, off-site backup should be thought of as a cost of doing business…and not just additional overhead they can do without! A meaningful cost justification can be found here.