The Unofficial Backup Admin's Handbook Part 1

What are backups and why do we need them?

According to Merriam:
a copy of computer data (such as a file or the contents of a hard drive)

Notice it says copy. Not a snapshot. Not a replication (without versioning). Copy. The backup should be point-in-time, on different storage, and have an expiration. Think of it as insurance. Something you hope you never need, but are really glad when you do.

What's the difference between a "backup" and an "archive":
Backups are typically used to make a copy for a data loss situation. The information is typically maintained for a shorter amount of time.

Archives are copies made for long term retention and in many cases the original data is removed upon completion of the archive job. These are used more often to maintain data for historical, legal or compliance purposes.

Why are backups so important? Multiple studies have shown that many companies (some estimates as high as seven in ten small companies) that experience a major data loss situation will end up out of business within one year. Just do a search on your preferred search engine for "data loss company failure".


Even minor data loss can result in lost hours, missed opportunities, and lost revenue. It can set projects backs hours, days, weeks, months or more. That "Shift-Del", "rm -r" or "drop *" can cause massive problems for such small actions.

Who does the company go to when they need that data back?

You, as the Backup Admin. You will notice the role gets almost no love. It is a pretty thankless role generally. A line item on the yearly expenses. In many cases, you will be all but forgotten by those in management, unless you run into a data-loss situation. When this happens, you will either be a rock star (you were able to get the lost data back), or pariah (couldn't recover the data). Ok, that may be a little over-dramatic, but still, let's try to be the rock star if we can.

So why do it? Well, first off, the "Backup Admin" role tends to be a very niche job. You don't typically go to school to be a Backup Admin. You need experience to get the job, but you have to have been in the job to get the experience. Fun right? Several of the Backup Admins I know (or forced into the role) do so unwillingly at first. Once you're in though, as long as you keep your skills sharp, you have reasonable job stability, availability of opportunities, and decent salary potential. Also, if you do your job right, it's not as much stress as you would think.