The commitment and discipline behind a fruitful university course is what drives the protection of data.

Degree in hand, you set off to conquer the world. You become a start-up founder and work out of the room above your friend’s garage. You run a lean team, and though you are tight on resources, you are full of ambition to make the world a better place.

Your business model is cutting-edge. Using the data science skills you learned in your studies at university, you build a predictive model backed by a unique machine learning algorithm. Everything is happening at an accelerated pace. As founder and CEO, you must ensure your business will survive rough times, both financial and technological.

You turn to your trusted team and present them with a simple task: make sure the company will survive system failures, security breaches, and data losses.

The easiest way to prevent data loss is to take regular backups of your data. On the leadup to World Backup Day (Mar 31), I am sharing six ways for you to master database backups, complete with references to my days at university. You’re welcome.

Identify critical courses

At university, I mapped out the courses necessary to satisfy my major requirements. This task was easy because my field of study required a certain number of core classes, and all the classes were found in a master list. But in the world of database servers, the master list changes frequently.

Each day, our list of servers and systems to monitor and manage grows. To combat this, use auto-discovery tools to build your inventory of critical systems, servers, and applications. When it comes to database backups, your motto must be “no server—and no database—left behind.”

Build a plan

With my courses identified, the next step was to decide when and where to take them. Some courses had to be done before others, and others conflicted with each other. Once you have the data, building a plan gets easier.

In the world of database backups, you build your recovery plan before you build a backup plan. You define your recovery point objective (RPO) and recovery time objective (RTO), using them to guide your database backup frequency.

Follow the plan

With the plan in place, it is up to you to do the work. At university, this meant showing up on time for class, paying attention, and getting the coursework done. With your systems and databases, following the plan means you need to verify the backups run to completion, ensure the files are readily available, and make sure the time it takes them to complete meets your RPO and RTO requirements. If your server tape backups start to run longer than 24 hours, you need to make some changes to your architecture.

Check your work

Being a good student does not mean just studying for exams. The best students review their knowledge on a regular basis. As a mathematics major, I always double-checked my work on exams by solving the problem in two or more ways to verify the answers.

With your systems and databases, checking your work means testing your backups periodically to ensure they are valid. You should conduct weekly and monthly tests using a random sampling of your databases. Do not wait for semi-annual disaster recovery tests to find out whether your database restores are working. By testing your restores frequently, you can verify that your RPO and RTO requirements remain valid.

Protect your assets

Sure, living at university means you sometimes have to share your personal stuff. But certain things, like your laptop and phone, should be kept private and locked down from unauthorized access. For database backups, this means encrypting your backup files so no one else can restore them. When it comes to data security, always assume the data will be lost or compromised at some point. Take steps now to minimize your risk later.

Make copies

As a student, I worried about losing my work. If I couldn’t find my study notes, I suffered when trying to study for an exam. At the time, I got around this by getting a copy of the lecture notes from professors who made them available. I also saved multiple copies of my documents in case one was lost or corrupted. The same applies for your systems and data. You should have multiple copies of your backups. I advocate the 3-2-1 rule: three copies of your data on two different types of media, and one of those should be stored offsite. By storing different formats in different locations, businesses can reduce the risk of data loss.

Lessons learned

Many companies emphasize things like innovation and growth. They spend more time on mission statements and less time on mission-critical data. Identifying things like RPO and RTO can help a company build a proper recovery plan, which then becomes part of an overall business continuity strategy. Without these processes, a business is doomed to fail.

Just like Professor Jacobsen taught me: “A failure to plan is planning to fail.”

Use the steps above to reduce your risk. There’s no better time than World Backup Day to get started on the road to recovery.