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Download a backup testing checklist to stay prepared

How can you be sure a backup will be successful if you don't test it? Use this backup testing checklist to confirm such important steps as timing and detection of any anomalies.

Prudent IT organizations periodically test the operation of their many different daily activities. One of the most important tests is ensuring your data backups work properly.

Before beginning a backup test, make sure the backup policy is up to date. Check it carefully to ensure the policy elements remain relevant, and look for any recent policy modifications that could affect tests.

Next, review backup procedures for files, databases, systems, network components, security resources and other elements that you must regularly or periodically back up. Ensure the backup policy also includes data archiving activities. Confirm backup software and related services perform normally. Check the use of the backup targets -- for example, local storage servers, local storage devices, SANs, NAS appliances and remote storage facilities such as cloud-based backup platforms.

When planning for the test, determine what to back up, the target locations for backups, how you intend to back up the data and success criteria for the backup. Define the testing team members, the test team lead, the process for reporting the test results and the test result recipient. If problems occur during the test, document these problems on the report and review the process for resolving them.

Why the backup testing checklist is important

Having a backup testing checklist ensures key processes occur in the correct sequence. This helps facilitate the management of backup problems and document test results. Having a checklist is especially useful if the regular test team is unavailable and alternate IT employees must instead perform the backup tests. Finally, having a backup test checklist provides evidence showing you performed tests that potential auditors can then examine.

Use the backup testing checklist on this page for planning, executing and reporting. Each column provides a place for specific information regarding the test, not only for management review, but also for auditor review.

How to proceed after the backup test

The backup testing checklist includes action items to perform once you have completed all tests, including start and end times, problems identified and resolved, and follow-up activities to address any issues.

Prepare an after-action report that summarizes the goals and objectives of the test, what you tested, who performed the test, results of the test and any issues you must address. You should detail each test activity, with descriptions of data to be backed up, target locations for data and criteria for verifying successful backup of your data.

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