Are You Backing Up Your ERP System?

5/13/2014 Carsten Howitz ERP

Of course you are backing up your ERP system. Or are you?

Most businesses rely heavily on their ERP system and could never imagine what a total loss of data would result in. One of the first things I talk about with a new customer is the importance of adequate backup procedures. When I ask them if they are backing up their ERP system they always say the same answer, "of course we are." Most businesses actually have backup procedures where they rotate tapes and store some tapes off site. This is typically not the problem.

Then I ask if they've ever asked their IT department or consultant to restore a backup of last night's backup and verify that it can be done. Most customers will say that they've never done that, mostly because it takes time or cost money. So how can they be sure that they actually have a good backup? My point is that they can't.

A true horror story

I once talked to a business that had a near complete loss of data. They lost more than one year's worth of data even though they were backing up their data every day. How could this happen? Let me explain.

The company got a server installed with the ERP system and a tape backup. They got a backup software installed and it was programmed to back up everything on the server. Great, now they got a printout each day saying that the backup was successfully completed. They rotated the tapes according to the instructions and kept some tapes off site, as you are supposed to. Everything looked to be fine.

A couple of years down the road they ran out of space on the main server and added an additional disk drive to the server. They moved the ERP data to the new and faster drive and they were thrilled over the enhanced performance of the new hardware. Another year later, the new drive suffered a complete crash. The ERP system was down, but they had their backup right? They were rotating tapes and viewing the printed log from the backup software every day. So everything was fine, right? Wrong! When they got the new drive someone forgot to reprogram the backup to include the new drive, thus none of the new ERP data was ever backed up. They were still backing up the more than year old data, but none of the new data.

This company was lucky because they could still restore data from one year ago and then recreate one year's worth of A/R, A/P and general ledger. It took them many man hours, overtime, and a lot of stress, but they survived it.

So what could have prevented this from happening? There are some easy steps that you can follow to make sure that you actually make a correct backup and that you can restore it in case you lose your data.

  1. Perform a restore to a dummy location on a regular basis and see that you can actually use the data. See that data is intact and the system fully functional. This is the absolute best way to make sure your backup works. If it doesn't work, you can correct the procedure so it works again. Do this at least once a month.
  2. Make sure that the backup software actually backs up the ERP data. Insist on seeing a log from the backup software (not just the overview) that specifically shows the data being backed up and verified on the tape. Do this on a daily or weekly basis.
  3. When you make ANY changes to the server setup where the ERP data is stored, make sure that the backup is reprogrammed accordingly. Run a restore procedure a few days later to make sure the new configuration if backed up correctly. This is where things typically goes wrong, so it is important to catch this one each time.
  4. Rotate tapes and store tapes off site according to the instructions. This is usually never the problem since most businesses are doing this already.

The most important thing you can do as a business is to make sure your backup of your data is complete. Think what would happen if you lost everything. Could you survive it? I doubt it. Most business will go under after a total data loss.

So I think it is worth spending some time on a weekly or monthly "fire-drill"" where your IT department or consultant restores your most important data to a different location and then you verify that it actually works.

Also, any change to the hardware is a potential problem for the backup software. Make sure it is programmed correctly to reflect the new changes each time.

That is the only way you can be sure.

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