To Backup or not to Backup. In Development, is the question.

Recently an old debate has resurfaced for me where the central question is: Do we, or do we not back up the development environment? Say it with me, now:

“It depends.”

I have seen a trend towards reducing or even eliminating the backups in development or test environments, since they don’t get as high a priority as the production environment. Development isn’t a client- or public-facing area of the business, so it gets lower priority when it’s down. Dev and Test *are* the production environment for your developers, though. That’s where they work, day in and day out. How comfortable would you feel telling a developer that they’ll have to re-do the last couple of hours worth of work? How about the last day or so? More?

Another common argument that I hear against backing up the development environment is the storage cost of what could be considered duplicate data, since Dev and Test are usually copies of Production. Fair enough, but if development is not as high a priority to the business, wouldn’t we be able to save costs on backup storage using things like de-dupe, snapshots, and compression?  In addition to storage cost, how much are you paying your developers? I assume they’re still drawing a salary while the environment is unavailable, or while they are re-doing work that was lost due to a database issue. Is that not also a cost?

I’m heavily skewed in favor of backing up the development environment. As the DBA, I’m very nervous about having anything without a backup. But I have to admit that there are some situations where backups just aren’t as useful as they should be, and it’s easier to just recreate instead of restore. The key question is this: What is your RPO/RTO for your developers, and how will you ensure that? Most of the time, backups are part of the procedure. Sometimes they aren’t.

One situation I have seen more than a few times is where production databases are regularly copied to the development or test environments, and the latest version of database changes are applied. Not just to make sure that the databases are code-current, but this has the additional benefit of testing the deployment scripts as well. In this case, is it worth taking a backup? Again, it depends. What is your SLA for development, and is it faster to restore the development database, or to re-do all the changes?  If it takes an hour to restore, but an additional hour to re-apply the changes, is that extra hour worth saving a little bit on storage cost for backups?

There’s no clear-cut answer, but I know that I restores save careers. I will almost always advocate for backing up all my environments.

What about you?

Thanks for reading.



One thought on “To Backup or not to Backup. In Development, is the question.

  1. Jess May 21, 2014 / 7:40 pm

    I try and lean on the side of caution, if space affords it, DB backups are on my list of things to backup; being a systems/storage guy that is.

    If space is borderline clearly identify what can stay longer, what can’t, etc.

    ‘What makes sense’ is what I lean on mostly.


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