As a good friend of mine often says, “No one has ever been fired for not backing up, but people get fired every day for not being able to recover data.” Therefore, when considering how to implement best practice for SQL server backups, I suggest you forget about backup – at least in the beginning – and instead think about recovery.
Defining a SQL server backup strategy should begin with asking two simple questions:
How much data can the business afford to lose?
The obvious and most common answer to this question is that the business cannot afford any data loss. In some cases that’s true. Especially in the financial sector, for example, where every single transaction must be recorded and all data protected without question. However, in many cases the business can actually afford some data loss, at least in some departments. In some cases, the cost of delivering a backup solution that guarantees no data loss can be more expensive than the cost of the data loss itself. The answer to this question will be unique for each business.
How long can you afford to have the SQL server offline in the event of an outage or failure?
Again, the obvious answer to this question is that the business cannot afford for the server to be offline for any length of time. In some cases, this may be true. For example, if the business relies on revenue-generating systems being online. The cost of downtime and lost revenue would far outweigh the cost of a backup solution that guarantees zero downtime. However, in many cases it is quite likely that the business can actually afford some downtime. In many cases, the cost of the solution that provides zero downtime can outweigh the cost of downtime itself. Again, the answer to this question will be different for every business.
Define your absolute best practice SQL server backup strategy
Once you have answered the questions above, you can then start building a best practice SQL server backup strategy that is aligned to the unique needs of your business. Not only will the backup strategy be aligned to the requirements of your business, but by asking the questions above – and getting them answered by business stakeholders – the expectations regarding recovery SLAs should be crystal clear. So if you are unfortunate enough to find yourself in the middle of an outage, then all stakeholders will already be aware of how much data may be lost and how long it will take to get systems back online.
To simplify the process of defining your own SQL server backup strategy, we’ve produced a free educational E-Book called Best Practices for SQL Server Backups. The E-Book covers topics such as scheduling, backup verification, simple versus full recovery model, and much more. Download the E-Book now to easily build your absolute best practice SQL server backup strategy.