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International Verify Your Backups Day

I’m not a superstitious sort, though I admit to preferring a particular jersey and shorts when I’m racing. But for many people, Friday the 13th is an inauspicious day, long reputed to be unlucky.

So I propose that we fight back against both superstition and the forces of entropy that constantly tear down all those works we labor so hard at creating.

The best defense against entropy is a good backup strategy. To quote a long-ago ad campaign from backup software maker Dantz Development, “To go forward, you must back up.”

But as those of us who have had to rely on our backups in the past know, the act of backing up is only the first small step in the full equation — it’s being able to restore that really matters.

Some psychiatrist friends with their own practice once ran afoul of this in a serious way. Their bookkeeper had religiously been making backups of all their invoicing and billing records as she worked, but she had never tried restoring from those backups until her hard disk died. When she went to restore from her carefully prepared backups, she was aghast to discover that they hadn’t been working. Months of data was lost, and it was a huge problem both for the bookkeeper and for my friends.

Therefore, I humbly submit that Friday the 13th, whenever it rolls around, should be considered International Verify Your Backups Day. (The United Nations is welcome to make this official.) In 2017, we'll be celebrating in January and October. If you’re reading this article on some other day, I’d encourage you to verify your backups right away and then continue with the Friday the 13th schedule.

Take a few minutes to identify some critical files and see if you can restore them successfully from your backups. If a bootable backup is part of your backup strategy, make sure you can actually boot from it. (If you don’t have a good backup from which you can restore right now, allow me to recommend Joe Kissell’s “Backing Up Your Mac: A Joe On Tech Guide.”)

That’s it. No costumes are necessary, there’s no obligatory greeting, and you aren’t expected to make a special meal. If you feel the need to honor your successful verification, well, a little celebratory imbibing of your favorite beverage is never inappropriate.

But do tell your friends, relatives, and colleagues about International Verify Your Backups Day. Because losing data is not a question of if, but of when, and good backups from which you can restore reliably will protect you from unexpected losses small and large alike.


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Comments about International Verify Your Backups Day

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Leigh Kessler  2011-05-13 20:15
Adam, you know Dolly Drive, Online Backup for Time Machine, is proud to support International Verify Your Backup Day! In fact, with our all-in-one Cloud and Clone, we submit you speak to the UN about adding International Double Your Backup Day.
DBATAG  2012-01-06 06:21
I heard about father day, mother day, computer gadget cleaning day but never ever heard of backup verify day !!!

Amazed, anyways, I also marked my calender to verify some SQL Server databases backup on this DAY !


Chris Hart  2012-01-13 07:10
After 15+ years of supporting Macs, I've run across enough instances of incomplete/unusable backups that I can speak to the value of this initiative.
JohnB (SciFiOne)   2012-01-13 09:57
The latest edition of the back up book is very good BTW.
Michael Blackstone  2013-09-13 12:28
Great idea - I added it to my Toodledo list. Unfortunately, repeating "every Friday 13th" isn't one of the options.
Adam Engst  An apple icon for a TidBITS Staffer 2013-09-13 12:35
Hah! That's a great Easter Egg suggestion for the BusyCal folks. :-)
Rob Lewis  2013-09-13 12:49
Great idea!

(In the early 80's I had an advertising client who made a high-capacity tape backup cartridge system. My tag line: "MegaTape: the great leap forward in backup". Pre-Dantz.)
Stefan Reitshamer  2013-09-13 16:28
Good idea. Backups are worthless if you can't restore. I wrote a backup app (Arq, for the Mac) and I'm always surprised by how few people seem to be testing restore.
Dominic Dunlop  2014-06-13 09:20
Too right! Wanted to restore an iTunes track that had got mangled from Time Machine yesterday, only to discover that TM had decided to stop backing up that particular directory's contents a while ago. Luckily (Prudently) I have two TM destinations, so nothing lost. First destination will be busy doing a complete back-up for quite a while…
Adam Engst  An apple icon for a TidBITS Staffer 2014-06-13 09:22
You're our 2014 poster child, Dominic! Thanks for sharing this real-world example of why testing backups is so important.
Charles  2014-06-13 20:22
LOL I frequently have tech support calls from people who can't get their backup to work. They only discover their backups don't work, when their drive fails and they try to restore for the first time.

A good example: I got hired as IT manager of a small company with 5 stores. Each store had rotating backups on 3 hard drives, one was kept offsite at all times.

So the day after I was hired, the main server drive crashed. It was a Windows server, of course. I went to the backup drive, it was formatted FAT32, which has a max file size of 2Gb. The backup files were about 12Gb, so only the first 2 gigs were recorded. Every backup of every drive in the company was corrupt, due to incompetent setup. Nobody ever tested this for the 2 years the backup scheme was in place.

To make a long story short, they had to send the drive to a disk recovery company. Cost: $4000.
Kelly Wilkerson  2015-02-13 15:53
I cannot get behind this idea enough! I help people repair corrupt iOS (iPhone, iPad, iPod Touch) backups all day, and it breaks my heart when cherished photos or work data is lost from a broken backup.

Backup files are just files, and they're susceptible to all of the same problems as the original data.
Walter  2015-03-25 08:53
I tried to boot from my backup disk
and the backup failed hard. That's
biting into an apple and finding a
worm. If your boot disk had failed
that's like biting into an apple
and finding half a worm.
Derek Roff  An apple icon for a TidBITS Contributor 2016-05-20 17:52
Besides checking or test restoring a few files, is there a good protocol for verifying my Time Machine backup?
Adam Engst  An apple icon for a TidBITS Staffer 2016-05-20 19:01
If you wanted to be thorough, and you had an extra hard drive to use, you could try using the Time Machine backup to restore the entire drive to your external. You wouldn't be able to continue using your Mac during the process, of course, but if it completed and everything looked good afterward, you could be even more confident that your Time Machine backup was complete and ready to be used in the event of a disaster.
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