Over the past couple of decades, data backup has become a much more important part of the way the world works. Without secured information assets and archives, much of the world would grind to a halt! Keeping data safe and secure has become an industry unto itself. Still, like any industry, we have been looking for ways to streamline our approach and our infrastructure to keep costs low without compromising the standard of protection we can offer. We’ve recently taken on a backup practice that’s often referred to as the Grandfather-Father-Son backup schema, and we’re having a lot of success with it.
Basically, Grandfather-Father-Son backup describe a rotating backup cycle of nested intervals. In practice, it might look like this: Imagine a company with twelve backup drives that safeguard the data from one primary drive. Divide those backups into three groups of four, and label the drives in each batch G, F, or S, accordingly. Now, the company needs to decide on a backup cycle, with short-, medium-, and long-term intervals. Let’s go with Daily, Weekly, and Monthly.
Each day, the company will make a backup to one of the Son drives, following the standard FiFo rules (First-In, First-Out). So, any given Son drive will be used on every fourth day (days 1, 5, 9, 13, and so on.) That takes care of the Son batch, used for the shortest intervals.
The Father batch is basically the same, except drives are backed up to and rotated weekly, while the drives from the Grandfather batch are used and rotated monthly (such that a given drive might be backed-up to in January, May, and September).
That’s pretty much it!
But there’s a reason why it’s important to rotate through storage media like this.
Why Rotate Backup Media
Any single piece of storage media has a finite lifespan. Magnetic tape decays less quickly than, say, optical disks, but each will eventually degrade so no backup is ever a permanent fix. When it comes to hard drives, platter drives tend to last longer than flash memory, but they take longer to encode.
Let’s look at a standard platter drive, just to give us some context. Data written to that drive might stay shelf-stable for a decade before it starts to degrade. That number can vary wildly depending on precisely how the drive was stored, the age of the drive itself, the manufacturing quality, and plenty of other factors, but one sure way to accelerate that lifespan is to overwrite the data on the drive progressively more often. Put another way, the more often you use a backup drive, the shorter the lifespan of the backups themselves. By rotating storage media, it helps ensure that no single drive is overworked.
There’s another benefit, too. Rotating drives this way helps to ensure that any specific snapshot lasts as long as possible. A daily backup might be expected to last for three full days before being overwritten, and a weekly backup could last nearly a month. If there’s an issue, or if a file was missing from a more recent backup, this approach to rotation maximizes the likelihood that it could be retrieved from one or more of the existing backup images.
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Convenience for Off-Site Storage
Grandfather-Father-Son backup also helps preserve data another way.By keeping longer-term backups on drives that you might not need to use again until the next quarter in a secure off-site records and media storage facility, you significantly increase the chances that backups will be safe even in instances of disaster.
A fire at a plant might wipe out everything on the premises, for instance, but a majority of the data can still be recovered from backups held in a secure facility miles away, like ours.
Trusting Your Information Assets to Corodata
Our secure, climate-controlled backup facilities are constantly monitored, and access is restricted to only our trained and accredited personnel. We keep your information assets in full compliance with regulations like HIPAA and FACTA, and our infrastructure allows for as many pickups and deliveries of your storage media as you need. You can arrange for daily transfers, for each of those Son drives, or let us hold onto your Grandfather backups for months or even years at a time, depending on the demands of your particular information systems architecture.