What is a backup rotation scheme?
To have a backup rotation scheme means to have a plan for the creation and maintenance of multiple physical media backups. Your backup rotation scheme dictates what kind of backup will be performed to which media, how long the media is stored, when the media will be used in the future, and when and whether to retire backup media permanently. The primary purpose of a backup rotation scheme is to help you manage your onsite backups.
Why is a backup rotation scheme a good idea?
Physical media backups will more than likely represent your onsite backups in a 3-2-1 backup scheme. When using automatic online backups, it is the provider’s task to manage their own media (servers). However if you are backing up to your own media, you will need a plan to manage that media, to account for limitations on storage as well as the lifetime expectation of the hardware you are using.
Having a backup rotation scheme alleviates concerns related to the durability of individual devices. With a well-defined plan in place for multiple pieces of media, knowing which backups will remain in use, when to cycle out other backups, and when to replace any given storage, you can prevent yourself from relying too much on a single backup solution or a single piece of hardware. Having more storage media generally also means having more storage space in which to keep your backups. It gives you flexibility, increased security, and data resilience.
What are the different types of backup rotation schemes?
FIFO: First in, first out: This is the simplest backup rotation scheme. It means backing up your newest files to the oldest media in a set of media sources for your data. If you have 7 drives, you are keeping 7 day’s worth of data, because you will continuously be overwriting your oldest drive, and then your next oldest after, and repeating with each drive until you are back to the first drive being “oldest” again.
GFS: Grandfather-Father-Son: In this scheme, you backup your data at three different rates, such as daily, weekly, monthly. This gives you greater breadth in how many older versions of files you are keeping, versus FIFO which overwrites old files frequently. You can potentially combine GFS with FIFO by assigning each of the rates (daily, weekly, monthly, for example) its own set of media that is managed in a FIFO scheme (for example, overwriting the daily backups on a monthly basis, and overwriting the monthly backups on a yearly basis.)
Tower of Hanoi: A complicated scheme based on the puzzle of the same name. Essentially, this means that the first backup is overwritten every other day, the second backup is overwritten every fourth day, and the third backup is overwritten every other day at a different increment than the first backup. This prevents any given backup from having the files for multiple consecutive days. It allows you to use less backup media while effectively maintaining different rates of backup.
Best Practices for creating a backup rotation scheme
To create a backup rotation scheme, you will need to plan your backups and purchase media, so you should first take time to create policies and plans based on what your critical data and backup needs are. Create a backup rotation scheme as part of a broader 3-2-1 strategy, so you have online backups on a vendor’s robust server media to supplement your local backups. Before thinking about backup rotation schemes, first create a data retention policy and a disaster recovery plan, so that you can identify your critical data. Investigate your needs and obligations first, before you invest in backup media and plan your backups appropriately.
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