Recently I’ve run into a couple of situations where customers had lost key business data due to several factors. Whether it is ransomware, a virus, or just hardware failure, it doesn’t really matter how you lose your data, it just matters that your data is lost, and your business is now in a really bad spot. When I was first thinking about writing this post this morning, I was going to tell you how important it was to backup your databases, and how the cloud is a great disaster recovery solution for those backups. The problem is, if you are reading this blog, you likely at least know that you should have backups. You probably even know how to optimize them to make them run faster, and you test your restores. You do test your restores, right?
Then I thought a little harder, and I was reminded of a tweet that my good friend Vicky Harp (the Principal Program Manager of the SQL Server tools team at Microsoft) wrote a couple of years ago:
[User requests feature already in product]
Junior dev: “lol dumb user”
Staff dev: “Closed – fixed”
Senior dev: <opens usability bug>
— Vicky Harp (@vickyharp) May 27, 2016
Backups are DBA 101, but most of the organizations who are having these types of issues don’t have a DBA. They might not even have a dedicated IT person, or if they do it’s someone who comes by once a week to make sure the printer and wifi still works and takes care of company laptops. The current situation is that we hope they go to a SQL Saturday, or user group, and learn about backups and start taking them. So, I thought, what could be done to make that easier, and faster. The database engine has technology to do backups automatically (maintenance plans) and even move them to secondary or tertiary location (backup to URL).
What I’m asking for (besides you to upvote that User Voice item) is for Microsoft, as part of SQL Server setup, to add two new screens. The first would be called “Backup”—it would offer a dire warning to the effect of:
In order to protect the data in your databases, Microsoft strongly encourages you to take backups of your data. In the event of hardware failure, data corruption, or malicious software, Microsoft support will be unable to help you recovery your data, and you will incur data loss. This box is checked by defaults to enable automatic daily backups of all of your databases.
The next screen would offer you options on where to store your data, and how long to retain it. It would offer the option to store the backups locally, or on a network share, and give you the ability to encrypt your databases. It would also allow you to backup your encryption key (and strongly encourage you to do so).
The next part of that screen is where I think this could become attractive to Microsoft. It would give you the option to backup your databases to URL in Azure, and if you didn’t have an Azure account, it would allow the user to create one. Frankly, for most organizations who would be using this for their backup solution, Azure is the best option.
Arguments Against This Feature
The main arguments I could make against this feature request are minimal. One could argue that you would like to use Ola’s scripts, or DBATools, or change striping or the buffer count for your backup. If you are making any of those arguments, this feature isn’t for you. If you’ve ever installed SQL Server with a configuration file, this feature isn’t for you. The only valid argument I can see against doing this, is that one could potentially fill up a file system with backup files. Maintenance plans do have the ability to prune old backups, so I would include that in my deployment. I might also build in some alerting and warnings into the SQL Agent to notify someone by default.
The other argument I see, is that Microsoft offers a similar product with Azure Backup for SQL VMs, and this would cannibalize that feature. It very well might, but that product is limited to Azure, and we are aiming for the greater good here helping more people protect their data is good for Microsoft, good for SQL Server, and good for the world.
If you are reading this, go upvote my User Voice request here. This feature isn’t about you, it’s about all the orgs who’ve IT decisions have them at the point of data loss, and they were really none the wiser. Let’s make life easier for folks.