What you will learn in this tip: The purpose and scope of backup audits, and what you can expect to get for your money. Plus: A link to a few self-assessment tools, to get you started.

A backup audit can be as simple as a self-administered checklist or as elaborate as a week's long project by outside consultants costing hundreds of thousands of dollars. Regardless of its level of complexity and cost, the purpose of the backup audit is the same: To identify and help fix potential problems with an enterprise's backup systems and procedures.

A backup audit examines the entire backup process looking for weaknesses, inefficiencies and single points of failure. Typically, it includes testing both backup and restore operations and compares existing ways of handling backups against industry-standard best practices.

Self assessments, such as the one on the

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Tao of Backup Web site, are a useful place to start. They are quick, inexpensive and will reveal areas that need more work.

A large number of companies from local consultants to national specialists such as System Source to more general data processing consultants can conduct backup audits. If you decide to go with an outside company to do your audit, you need to decide how much auditing your company needs and choose an auditor appropriately. Of course, the more elaborate the audit, the more it will cost, and the longer it will take. However if the audit is performed appropriately, the more comprehensive the audit, the more specific -- and useful -- the recommendations.

Generally, an outside audit will produce a variety of deliverables, from a logical network diagram to specific recommendations on everything from data security to where to store backup tapes and how to label them. A really comprehensive audit will include services such as recreating your network at the consultant's facility and using your backups to completely restore the system.

For more information:

Expert Advice: How to carry out a backup and recovery audit

Tip: Top 10 business continuity elements

Tip: Data protection risk analysis self-test

About the author: Rick Cook has been writing about mass storage since the days when the term meant an 80 K floppy disk. The computers he learned on used ferrite cores and magnetic drums. For the last twenty years he has been a freelance writer specializing in storage and other computer issues.

This was first published in July 2004

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