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Backups, Data Verification and Data Integrity

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These are tips for the general care of any database, be it Theatre Manager, your accounting information, Word or Excel documents, contracts, or any other data on your computers. There are three sub topics:
  • Backups
  • Data verification and integrity within the database
  • Computer checkups


American Express estimates that the average value of 100 megabytes of company data is about $1,000,000 if you count the cost to acquire it, or damage to the company if you lost it all. They also state that 50% of companies that do not recover their data within 10 business days never fully recover financially. Backups are an important safeguard for a valuable corporate asset.

Media Use a commercial grade media to store the information. This can be a replication server, removable media, memory sticks, disk, or cloud-based backup
Backup Data Backup all data to one common place using one common process. If data is categorized and treated differently, it increases the possibility that data can slip through the cracks.
Backup Programs Too! Simply backing up data is not sufficient. Programs that were used to create the data also change over time and there is no guarantee that data from a few years ago can be read by the current version of a program. The best backup strategy includes backing up an image of all data and programs to one source so that both can be restored without a synchronization issue (i.e. now I've got the data, where is that program disk - they can be lost, the floppies go bad, or the serial number activation codes for some programs are lost - all of which mean that you would recover the data without the ability to use it).
The Other Computers The need for Theatre Manager database backup is obvious.

Including operating systems, programs and machines can also be important. The actual OS for each machine (Mac or PC) is different and optimized for the particular machine during installation. (For example, older machines often cannot run newer operating systems and vice versa).

There are serialized components within the operating system for network oriented multi-user applications (e.g. Theatre Manager, backup software, Quark Express, Word, Excel) that need to be restored at the same time as the program in order to work.

Fortunately, Apple includes a tool called Time Machine - which is worthwhile implementing for all data and all computers other than Theatre Manager's database server. On Windows 8, there is a feature called File History that mimics some portions of Time Machine. (There are also other third-party products for Windows).

Retention Strategies One backup is not good enough. Your backup scheme should include generations of backups going back a number of months or even years, depending on legislative requirements or corporate risk. Typically, you should have:
  • 2 to 4 weeks of daily backups. This is the most critical time period as files are usually lost or file corruption is noticed within this time frame.

  • There should be one or two years of 'month end' backups that occur on the first day of the month. This allows recovery of data to a specific point in time (e.g. what was the accounting data at the last grant application, or what were the house counts in Theatre Manager, or recovery of an important graphic from last year's brochure that should be used again).

  • Ultimately, we suggest you save 7 years of yearly backups to satisfy government requirements, should they come looking for data (don't forget that you need the program at the same time as the data).

This represents 30+12+7 = 49 distinct backups

Offsite Storage Backups need to be rotated off site - out of the office. This allows business recovery in the event of fire or theft from the principal site. Removable media or automated FTP of databases can be used.
Replication is a feature of postgres and is automatically set up for cloud venues. Self service venues may set this up if they wish - the support team is unable to help you.
Devices can break. You should have access to another similar device so that you can restore backup files and resume operation until the primary server device is repaired. For a moderate cost, you can have an immediate redundancy for the database server via hot streaming replication measures.