Backup Integrity and Recoverability
Regardless of the backup strategies you use, it is critical to restore backups on a regular basis to validate your procedures. The best practice — to restore every backup of the production environment to an alternate server and then validate the integrity of the restored databases (see Verifying Structural Integrity) — provides the following advantages:
Validates the recoverability of the backup media.
Validates the physical integrity of the databases in the backup, avoiding the problem of false reporting of integrity errors when running integrity checks on volatile databases affected by ongoing updates.
Provides a warm copy of the backup, substantially reducing the time required to restore the backup in the event of a disaster. If such an event occurs, you need only restore the updates in the journal files.
Establishes a last known good backup.
The backup strategies described in this document preserve the physical structure of the database; therefore, a clean integrity check of the restored copy implies that the integrity of the production database was sound at the time of the backup. The converse, however, is not true: an integrity error detected on the restored copy of a database does not necessarily imply that there are integrity problems on the production database; there could, for example, be errors in the backup media. If you discover an integrity error in the restored database, immediately run an integrity check on the production database to verify the integrity of the production system.
To further validate that the application is working correctly on the restored database, you can also perform application-level checks. To perform these checks, you may need to restore journal files to restore transactional integrity. See Importance of Journals for more information.
Once you restore the backup and establish that it is a viable source of recovery, it is best to preserve that restored copy until you establish the next good backup. Therefore, the server on which you are validating the backup should ideally have twice the storage space required by production—space to store the last-known good backup as well as the backup you are currently validating. (Depending on your needs, you may have less stringent performance requirements of the storage device used for restoring backups, allowing for a less expensive storage solution.) In this way, the last-known good backup is always available for use in a disaster even if validation of the current backup fails. To protect enterprise databases from a disaster that could destroy the data center, regularly ship backup media to a secure off-site location.