Best Practices for Backing up Your Database

It’s almost the end of the workday and the employees are cranking out the last of the reports when every computer screen in the office goes dark. Some employees are checking the CPU connections while others are tapping on keyboards to see if something happens. When the database finally comes back online, there are large amounts of data missing. Half the workers cannot continue with their reports due to the missing data and the others will have to spend long weekends re-entering necessary data for office operations.

Developing Database Backup Procedures

The database is the heart of your computing operations. Having current backup procedures in place ensures that accurate information is saved and can be retrieved quickly to minimize downtime. Your database administrator needs to create effective backup and recovery plans in case any failure occurs to the hardware or software of the database. Best practices for Oracle database backups should involve 5 key aspects:

  • Figure out what should be backed up in the database
  • Deciding the types of backups to perform
  • Choosing where to store the backups
  • Creating a schedule for the backups
  • Establishing a backup retention policy

Components to Back Up

Database administrators working with Oracle systems can select the top components to back up that can restore operations in case of a failure. Passwords, operating system software, relational database management system (RDBMS), and application software are all typical software systems to focus on. Specific Oracle database components to take note during the backup include the control files; redo log files, parameter file, network files, data files and password files.

Type of Backups and Storage

There are three types of backups that database administrators can perform: offline backups, online backups and logical backups. It is ideal to back up the database to disk and then transfer the disks to tape. Storing the tapes at a secure offsite location ensures that the data information can be retrieved if something monumental happens to the database and systems at the primary office location.

Scheduling Backups

Creating an appropriate backup schedule should not hamper daily activities for database users while ensuring that the backup disks and tapes hold the most current information. An ideal backup schedule would involve setting up transaction log backups every few hours, incremental backups during the week and full database backups once a week during the appropriate time when the database is the most inactive.

Backup Retention Policies

There will always be certain data information that becomes outdated and no longer required for the operations of the business. When setting up a service level agreement (SLA) with a database administrator, specify the length of time to retain the old backup information until the time comes to delete and replace it with the new backup data. You can decide between a time frame of months or years for the backup retention policy.

Managing and Testing Backups

While we would like to think that scheduled automated backup processes will perform correctly, minor glitches can occur when the backup procedure fails. Proper management of database backup procedures requires the database administrator to monitor and validate backups. Setting up alerts about failed backup processes allows for immediate remediation.

In addition, just because the system claims that the backup occurred does not mean that some type of error happened to cause the data to become unreadable during a system restore task. Testing and validating that database backups can be successfully restored to systems is another best practice that all database administrators should perform.

Case Study

A client from the mid-west was using an older version of Oracle that had not been backed up in quite some time. After attempting to work with a variety of rDBA vendors, they were unable to find a solution. The client finally came to Database Specialists and we were able to recover the database and put an automated (and monitored) backup solution together within a few days. Overall, the client’s business suffered because of the database failure. By having a backup system or plan in place (including monitoring), you’re protecting your business and information from any problems that may arise.

In addition, when and if you partner with a rDBA vendor, it’s crucial to ensure that everyone on their staff has over 15 years of experience and you know who your main point of contact is. This will help if any problems occur (big or small), that your database is protected and in the right hands.

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