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Postings here will focus mainly on Advanced Accounting software updates, tips, and related topics. They will also include general comments relating to troubleshooting PC/Windows/network problems and may also include reference to our other software products and projects including any of our various utilities, or to the TAS Premier programming language. We considered setting up separate blogs for different topics so that users/others could subscribe to topics mostly aligned with their interests, but decided that it would be better to keep things simple since some topics cross over into others. We would nonetheless welcome your feedback/input in this regard. Our web site URL is www.addsuminc.com. Call us at 800-648-6258 or 801-277-9240. We also maintain www.advancedaccounting.us so that older Business Tools users in particular have a greater chance to find us.

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Thursday, March 26, 2015

Pitfalls of online or live database backup

The proliferation of online, cloud-based backup systems ranging from the extensively advertised Carbonite to CrashPlan, Mozy, Backblaze, and many others has led to their widespread and sometimes indiscriminate use.  When it comes to the backup of critical business data (such as your accounting software or other in-house database-oriented software), these online or "live" approaches should solely be viewed as supplemental to other traditional approaches and not as a substitute for them.

Further it is essential for most users that database files be backed up on a scheduled, after hours basis and not while they are in active use, i.e. your data files should not be simply getting backed up constantly as they change (except for in the most high end, life and death environments).

Why?

Live, non-scheduled backup will likely ultimately create file locking problems (especially in multi-user, but also in standalone/singler-user, database environments) causing your software to not function properly leading then to delays and support costs to resolve.  And these types of problems have been widely reported with many different systems.

Examples:

An older report from 2011:
How Carbonite is Kryptonite for Sage ACT!

Live backups not recommended Atrex database  (2013)
Carbonite Online Backups

Reported with Peachtree (Btrieve/Pervasive) and QuickBooks (2014)
Carbonite Locking Files

We have also seen Btrieve/Pervasive status code 46 problems (in both Btrieve 6.15 and Pervasive 9 and above) in connection with supporting Advanced Accounting as well as TAS Premier/Professional custom systems created by the use particularly of Carbonite (and also by attempts to copy files in other ways while data files were in active use) on a non-scheduled basis.  A status code 46 ("access to file denied") leads to software not being able to write to the afflicted data file causing a loss of data that then has to be fixed manually.

A practical reason to not backup your database "live" relates to extreme slowdowns that can sometimes be created in a live environment.  The constant backup of your data will create delays that could create other types of record problems, and your system's overall performance will suffer.

Online backup system software makers typically offer a "Home" as well as "Business" version.  The more costly (and often much more awkward to use) business versions would at a minimum be required to backup a multi-user database on a real-time basis.   Even with the higher end versions in place, however, this would not ensure that a backup with full integrity was being achieved.   With Pervasive systems for example, a system would need to be placed in "continuous operations" mode to ensure a full backup with integrity regardless of the backup method used in situations where the database files might be changing during the course of the backup.   For most users, the best and easiest solution is to perform scheduled backups when the database system is not changing (and in the case of Pervasive systems, some users even "stop" the Pervasive service to ensure that is the case, which is not necessarily recommended, but is a possible approach).

Strong recommendation (applies to most users):  continue to use non-cloud based, traditional backup procedures, and consider your cloud-based backup as simply an additional, supplemental method.  Ideally backup files/systems after hours or when your system is not in use with respect to all backup approaches.  Make local ("on premises") backup copies that involve non-proprietary methods (such as the copy and ZIP method provided in Advanced Accounting or in backup software such as Second Copy).


24-7 environments:

In 24-7 situations, it is likely that you can still find a "low use" time for the cloud-based backup to run on a scheduled basis.

Or:

(1) Exclude the cloud-based backup from backing up the accounting software or business data folder(s)  so that those files are never backed up in real-time;

(2) Assign an office/administrative person to oversee and/or perform a traditional backup (using the backup feature of the software or a batch/script file or process provided by locally installed backup software such as Second Copy) at a regular daily time that is communicated to all staff members.  In most cases, a full local backup performed directly from the server or gateway PC directly of just a software's data files can be accomplished in well less than 15 minutes.   Rotate backup medium (e.g. flash drive) and do not use the same media (or backup folder) every time.  Periodically take one of the backups off-site and rotate those.

In Pervasive environments, place the data files into continuous ops mode (there are several ways to accomplish this and it can be automated) before any backups are initiated if the data files can potentially change while being backed up during the scheduled backup (applies regardless of backup method).














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