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After you have backed up your data to tape, you can feel confident that you have a copy of your data that you can use in the event that anything happens to your PC. Or can you? If you're paranoid like me you might want an additional level of security to help you feel safe. This is easy to do, by using backup software that includes the ability to perform data verification, and enabling the feature.
The idea behind verification is simple: after the files are backed up, the backup software reads back the information from the backup media and compares it back to the original files. This ensures that the backup just made is readable, and that the files match what was just copied. I recommend that data verification be used, as it is a simple way of feeling more sure that your backups are working correctly. The only disadvantage is that it lengthens the amount of time that it takes to perform the backup, but if you are backing up overnight or while away from the PC, this will have no effect on you anyway.
There are two different levels of verification that you will sometimes find, depending on the software you are using. The most secure level of verification is full verification, where each and every file that is backed up is also verified by reading back from the backup medium. A lesser type of verification is sampling verification. Here, instead of verifying everything that was backed up, a sample of what was backed up is read back and verified. This makes the verification take much less time, but of course doesn't do nearly as good a job. Usually full verification is easier to find on most software than sampling.
The ultimate in backup verification is doing a test restore, but this takes both time and some spare hardware. If you have an extra hard disk or PC, you can take your backup set and try to restore the backup to this machine. If it works properly, you can feel confident that your backup will probably protect you when you need it.
Next: Backup Compression