Why Backups Fail and How to Avoid It?


Backup failures are unfamiliar but inevitable, irrespective of the software used for backup and restore the systems. When you scrutinize the RCA (Root Cause Analysis) for failure, the same issues come up repeatedly. With every failure, there is the possibility of data loss that requires extensive expenses in resources to correct the recovery issue.

IT Downtime Cost | Backup FailsAccording to Gartner, the average cost of IT downtime is $5,600 per minute. Business operations differ for varied businesses, downtime, at the low end, can be as much as $140,000 per hour, $300,000 per hour on average, and as much as $540,000 per hour at the higher end.

98 percent of organizations say a single hour of downtime costs over $100,000. 81 percent of respondents indicated that 60 minutes of downtime costs their business over $300,000. 33 percent of those enterprises reported that one hour of downtime costs their firms $1-5 million.

Consider, a device fails, and you find critical files missing? Financial databases, shipping data, accounting records, credit card information, customer data, and any number of irreplaceable digital files may be lost forever. All lost because of a misconfigured, untested or unverified backup.
Hence regular data backups should be a common task for an organization and advances in software and cloud storage over the years have made the process less painful.

Good Backups Do Go Bad!

Righteous hardware and software plus a good backup strategy is a perfect combination to protect your vital data. However, several variables can prevent backups from completing and being available when needed. If you do not test your backups regularly, there are high chances that you may not find your important data during a disaster or a malware attack.

Reasons Behind Why Corrupt Backups Occur:

- Applications do not work well with the backup software

- Inappropriately stored backup media that causes physical damage to the backups

- Complex backup applications with settings that do not work as expected

- Hardware issues – all backup devices fail eventually

- In case of a physical backup, what you do when the storage is full?

- In the case of cloud backup, who is being notified of downtime, backup failures, or API updates? Who has access?

Regular offline testing of critical backups will ensure that everything is properly backed up and restored, even during a device failure.

How to Test Backup?

Use a Spare Server

Why do companies ignore checking their backups regularly?

Either they lack space to restore the data or have no spare servers. Dormant hardware is a good replacement option when there is a server or storage failure. It will also be perfect for testing a full restore of backup data. Improper testing of the backups can lead to an improper restore, and by the time the company realizes this, it will be too late.

It is mandatory to have a physical or virtualized full system to restore a backup when the working system goes offline.  In the case of a physical system, ensure that the spare server is similar to a working server configured with the same operating system and backup software.

On the other hand, ideally, the spare server used to test or restore a virtualized system should have a greater capacity than the amount of data in the original system to ensure better restore and testing.

Running multiple servers is an additional expense, but it is worth when you compare the setup cost with the revenue loss the company would face when the working system goes offline.

Verify the Actual Files

“Oh, we did not verify if our backup data is functional!”

This is the common mistake found among customers. When customers review backup log files that show a backup activity is completed or looks at what folders appear to have been backed up, they consider backup data to be functional. However, when the inevitable strikes, customers try to restore from backup and find almost all files missing.

While checking your backups, it is vital to “open” files – at least the most important files – and ensures they work. The process might take some extra time, but opening and testing the important files can save a business during a system failure or other data loss occurrence.

How Often To Test Your Data Backups?

Every company has its own threshold when it comes to making or testing a backup. Small scale companies may have a few gigabytes of data added each month or year, Others may have terabytes of data created that need to be restored immediately during a failure.

How often should backups be made? This depends on three criteria:

  1. The sensitivity of your data
  2. Amount of data
  3. How frequently data changes

Ever Heard of the 3,2,1 Backup Strategy?

3, 2, 1 Backup Strategy

There is no 100 percent guarantee that the type of device you use to backup will protect your data during a system failure. 3,2,1…strategy is the best way to truly protect your data.

The 3,2,1 rule goes like this:

- 3 copies of your data always – one working copy and two backups

- 2 copies on local devices

- 1 copy kept off-site or in the cloud

In a real-world scenario, this is like one server that is in use, a second server that backs up the first server and a cloud solution to store a third complete copy.


Data is undoubtedly the most vital asset for any organization, so protect it with a robust data backup solution. Zmanda is a worldwide leader in open-source backup and recovery software. Zmanda backup to cloud protects and recovers folders, files, applications, or a complete system. This modern solution is specifically designed for companies that have an extremely low tolerance for data loss, downtime, or risk mitigation.

It is better to schedule a full restore test. Maybe once a year or quarterly. Decide and put the date on the calendar.

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