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DBA 101: Why Don’t People Run Backups

It happened multiple times this week. It happens multiple times every week. Some poor soul is posting on a message board, usually with the heading “URGENT” (why that one word so frequently, I just don’t know), that they deleted production data/dropped a production table/updated production data/dropped a database/received data corruption error/whatever. Now, they need to get the data back. “URGENT, What do I do now?” And so you ask, as you should, what kind of backups do you have? Over and over the answer is: “Backups? What’s a backup” or “Oh, the system guys backup of the MDF files every night” or “We don’t really need those” or “We don’t have room to back up our databases” or some other excuse that simple comes down to, we didn’t set up backups and are now in a world of extreme pain.

Why? Why aren’t you running backups? I’ve thought about it and thought about it and I just can’t for the life of me understand why. I mean, there are lots of excuses, and the only one I find remotely acceptable is the “accidental DBA” excuse. “I just got handed these responsibilities and I’m finding out the hard way what that means.” Those people, I do feel sorry for. The rest of you… no excuse. Oh, you’re a developer and didn’t think that backups were necessary? Really? Do you put your code into a source control management system? Yes, of course you do because you’re a good developer. Why is that? Because you need a copy of the code in case something goes wrong…. wait for it…. Yes! That’s right. Same thing as a database backup. You say you’ve been working with databases for 3-5 years but you’ve never even heard of backups? But you’re reading this blog somehow and I’ll bet you read other blogs and you go to SQL Server Central or StackOverflow when you have questions. You see the phrase “backup” repeated in all these places over and over again, yet you don’t know what it is? Nope. Sorry, not buying it.

People, a lack of a solid full backup is absolutely a RGE (Resume Generating Event) waiting to happen. Stuff goes wrong. Remember the engineering maxim, Murphy was an optimist (for the truly lost, Murphy’s Law).

The Scary DBA

I have twenty+ years experience in IT. That time was spent in technical support, development and database administration. I work forRed Gate Software as a Product Evangelist. I write articles for publication at SQL Server Central, Simple-Talk, PASS Book Reviews and SQL Server Standard. I have published two books, ”Understanding SQL Server Execution Plans” and “SQL Server 2008 Query Performance Tuning Distilled.” I’m one of the founding officers of the Southern New England SQL Server Users Group and its current president. I also work on part-time, short-term, off-site consulting contracts. In 2009 and 2010 I was awarded as a Microsoft SQL Server MVP. In the past I’ve been called rough, intimidating and scary. To which I usually reply, “Good.” You can contact me through grant -at- scarydba dot kom (unobfuscate as necessary).


Posted by Dave Kusske on 13 February 2011

The only constant I've known in the IT industry after 33 years of experience is that, sooner or later, if you don't have good backups, you're screwed!

Posted by Glenn Berry on 14 February 2011

I suspect that some people get talked out of doing regular backups (and actually having a backup and restore strategy) by their system or SAN administrators.

They are told things like "You don't need SQL backups, we have RAID 5", or "You don't need SQL backups, we have SAN snapshots", etc.

Of course some people just don't know any better, either.

Posted by Jason Brimhall on 16 February 2011

Good points by Glenn.  I know several SAN admins and managers that have tried to talk us out of backups.  Didn't stop us though.

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