Getting backups of your databases in place is a fundamental issue for protection of the business. Yes, I said business, not data, not databases, but business. Because of a lack of good, tested, backups, companies have gone completely out of business or suffered traumatic financial loss. That’s just a simple fact (outlined with a few examples here). So you want to get backups right. That’s a big part of why we make Red Gate SQL Backup Pro work the way it does.
Yes, you could just use native backups, but you’ll be missing a few advantages that we provide over and above what you get out of the box from Microsoft. Let’s talk about them.
If you’re a hard-core DBA with 20+ years of experience on every version of SQL Server and several other data platforms besides, you may already know what you need in order to get a set of tested backups in place. But, if you’re not, maybe a little help would be a good thing. To set up backups for your servers, we supply a wizard that will step you through the entire process. It will also act to guide you down good paths. For example, if your databases are in Full Recovery, you should set up transaction log backups to run on a regular basis. When you choose a transaction log backup from the Backup Type you’ll see that only those databases that are in Full Recovery will be listed:
This makes it very easy to be sure you have a log backup set up for all the databases you should and none of the databases where you won’t be able to. There are other examples of guidance throughout the product. If you have the responsibility of managing backups but very little knowledge or time, we can help you out.
Throughout the software you’ll notice little green question marks. You can see two in the screen above and more in each of the screens in other topics below this one. Clicking on these will open a window with additional information about the topic in question which should help to guide you through some of the tougher decisions you may have to make while setting up your backup jobs. Here’s an example:
As a part of the wizard you can choose to make a copy of your backup on your network. This process runs as part of the Red Gate SQL Backup engine. It will copy your backup, after completing the backup so it doesn’t cause any additional blocking or resource use within the backup process, to the network location you define. Creating a copy acts as a mechanism of protection for your backups. You can then backup that copy or do other things with it, all without affecting the original backup file. This requires either an additional backup or additional scripting to get it done within the native Microsoft backup engine.
Red Gate offers you the ability to immediately copy your backup to the cloud as a further, off-site, protection of your backups. It’s a service we provide and expose through the Backup wizard. Your backup will complete first, just like with the network backup copy, then an asynchronous process will copy that backup to cloud storage. Again, this is built right into the wizard or even the command line calls to SQL Backup, so it’s part a single process within your system. With native backup you would need to write additional scripts, possibly outside of T-SQL, to make this happen. Before you can use this with your backups you’ll need to do a little setup, but it’s built right into the product to get this done. You’ll be directed to the web site for our hosted storage where you can set up an account.
If you have SQL Server 2008 Enterprise, or you’re on SQL Server 2008R2 or greater and you have a Standard or Enterprise license, then you have backup compression. It’s built right in and works well. But, if you need even more compression then you might want to consider Red Gate SQL Backup Pro. We offer four levels of compression within the product. This means you can get a little compression faster, or you can just sacrifice some CPU time and get even more compression. You decide. For just a simple example I backed up AdventureWorks2012 using both methods of compression. The resulting file from native was 53mb. Our file was 33mb. That’s a file that is smaller by 38%, not a small number when we start talking gigabytes. We even provide guidance here to help you determine which level of compression would be right for you and your system:
So for this test, if you wanted maximum compression with minimum CPU use you’d probably want to go with Level 2 which gets you almost as much compression as Level 3 but will use fewer resources. And that compression is still better than the native one by 10%.
Backups are vital. But, a backup is just a file until you restore it. How do you know that you can restore that backup? Of course, you’ll use CHECKSUM to validate that what was read from disk during the backup process is what gets written to the backup file. You’ll also use VERIFYONLY to check that the backup header and the checksums on the backup file are valid. But, this doesn’t do a complete test of the backup. The only complete test is a restore. So, what you really need is a process that tests your backups. This is something you’ll have to schedule separately from your backups, but we provide a couple of mechanisms to help you out here. First, when you create a backup schedule, all done through our wizard which gives you as much guidance as you get when running backups, you get the option of creating a reminder to create a job to test your restores. You can enable this or disable it as you choose when creating your scheduled backups.
Once you’re ready to schedule test restores for your databases, we have a wizard for this as well. After you choose the databases and restores you want to test, all configurable for automation, you get to decide if you’re going to restore to a specified copy or to the original database:
If you’re doing your tests on a new server (probably the best choice) you can just overwrite the original database if it’s there. If not, you may want to create a new database each time you test your restores.
Another part of validating your backups is ensuring that they can pass consistency checks. So we have DBCC built right into the process. You can even decide how you want DBCC run, which error messages to include, limit or add to the checks being run. With this you could offload some DBCC checks from your production system so that you only run the physical checks on your production box, but run the full check on this backup. That makes backup testing not just a general safety process, but a performance enhancer as well:
Finally, assuming the tests pass, you can delete the database, leave it in place, or delete it regardless of the tests passing. All this is automated and scheduled through the SQL Agent job on your servers. Running your databases through this process will ensure that you don’t just have backups, but that you have tested backups.
Single Point of Management
If you have more than one server to maintain, getting backups setup could be a tedious process. But, with Red Gate SQL Backup Pro you can connect to multiple servers and then manage all your databases and all your servers backups from a single location. You’ll be able to see what is scheduled, what has run successfully and what has failed, all from a single interface without having to connect to different servers.
Log Shipping Wizard
If you want to set up log shipping as part of a disaster recovery process, it can frequently be a pain to get configured correctly. We supply a wizard that will walk you through every step of the process including setting up alerts so you’ll know should your log shipping fail.
You want to get your backups right. As outlined above, Red Gate SQL Backup Pro will absolutely help you there. We supply a number of processes and functionalities above and beyond what you get with SQL Server native. Plus, with our guidance, hints and reminders, you will get your backups set up in a way that protects your business.