In this section we will discuss software and things that are not backups but people seem to confuse with backups.
What to look for in backup software:
There are a few things that are important in backup software.
Reporting: Good reporting will go a long way in making sure that you have good backups. I really like having a copy of the backup logs e-mailed to me. That way I know if the backup has not completed successfully and I can look into the problem. All the commercial third part packages I have ever worked with had fairly decent reporting built in. If you are using the built in backup in Windows the backup logs are not too bad but you will need to do a little scripting if you want to get logs delivered in e-mail.
Agents for your applications: If you plan to backup certain applications such as MS SQL and Exchange you may want to look into finding a backup application that has an agent for backing up that application. In the cases of both MS SQL and Exchange backup applications can not get a consistent copy of the data. An agent will get around this issue. Agents are not absolutely necessary. You can use the tools built into MS SQL to make a backup to disk and then back that up. Similarly Exchange can be backed up to disk only using the built in tools Microsoft supplies. Having said that, an agent will make backing up these applications easier and may add functionality such as single record recovery. Agents also reduce complexity and by extension may reduce your chances of something going wrong. If you are using agents test that all the functionality you expect to work works as promised. I have found the Exchange agent in Backup Exec to be temperamental at best and every new version seems to fix something while breaking some other functionality.
Application based backups: As mentioned above some applications can be configured to make a consistent backup of their own data on a regular basis. Use this functionality.
Not a backup:
Finally I want to discuss a few things that people seem to confuse with backups.
RAID: RAID is not a backup strategy. It is simply a technology that can be used to limit the likelihood of having a catastrophic disk based failure. RAID does not mitigate any of the risks that we have discussed throughout this series of articles. What RAID will do it reduce you changes of having a hardware based failure that forces you to use your backups for a recovery. RAID is certainly a good thing and should be used for any critical data but it does not take the place of a good backup strategy.
Replication within applications: Replication with applications is another technology that fits into disaster recovery but not backup. Replication will mitigate some risk such as the risk of hardware failure causing an outage but other risks such as accidental data deletion or corruption will simply be replicated. Replication within applications is certainly a good component of DR but is not a backup solution or a substitute for a backup solution.
A few news stories about people who didn't have good backups