The Importance of Backups

Have you ever had a computer stop working and then realise that you don't have a backup of your photos, documents or other critical data. Or, there are also the nasty pieces of MalWare that encrypt your data and then hold them ransom until you pay the creator an exorbitant amount of money to decrypt the files. Others simply destroy the data files completely.

I went to a customer's site that had one of these nasty RansomWare infections get onto one of their servers. They had completely lost access to all of their documents, photos, databases and anything else that was of value to them on that server. They were being asked to pay an exorbitant amount of money to get the code to decrypt the files. To make things worse, they didn't have a current backup at the time.

A problem like that can put a business in a position where they may be unable to continue trading, because they can't access any of their important data for a significant amount of time.

Imagine if they had good backups that were being done daily, or even hourly. They would have simply been able to remove the infection from the computer, remove the encrypted files and restore from the backup, with minimal loss or downtime.

Lots of us have been in the situation where we have had to rely on the computer guy to get the files back, or even worse send the hard drive off to a professional data recovery service, trying to have the missing files recovered from it. Which could cost anything from a several hundred dollars to a few thousand dollars and that's if they can retrieve anything from the drive.

The best thing that you can do is ensure that your data is backed up NOW!

There is a methodology that is simple to implement, which can protect you from any unforeseen circumstances. It's referred to as the 3-2-1 rule. I can't claim that I created it, but it's the best system I've seen protect your data.

It goes like this:-

  • 3 - copies of your files
  • 2 - backups, preferably stored on different types of media
  • 1 - of the backups is stored off site

3 copies of your files - one on your Computer and two backups - you can have more if you wish.

2 backups stored on different media - maybe one on a Hard Drive and another stored in the cloud.

1 backup stored off site - you can use a cloud based (Internet) backup like Carbonite or use a second hard drive and store it at a family member or friends home (somewhere that is not physically near where your important live data is - just in case the problem affects the local area).

If you're using two hard drives, you'll need to ensure that the hard drive which is stored offsite is regularly swapped with the one that you backup onto all the time. That way you always have a reasonably current backup stored offsite. I would recommend backing up your data daily and swapping the hard drives on a weekly basis.

The reason that you need one stored somewhere away from your home or business is highlighted by what happened when Francis Ford Coppola had his laptop stolen.

I understand that he was very good about backing up his data to an external hard drive which he kept next to the laptop, so it was stolen as well. I wonder just how much of his work he has lost for good.

There are numerous devices you can backup onto but I'm going to recommend that you use an external hard drive, for the local backup and something like Carbonite as the off-site backup, purely for simplicity.

The Carbonite solution will provide regular automated backups that you don't need to think about every day. Although you will need to monitor it occasionally just to ensure that it is working correctly.

Backing up to an external hard drive is another question completely; it's no good having a backup drive that is never used.

There are a number of products that can manage this for you. Some that are automated and as long as you remember to connect the drive, the backup will complete without your input. Others need to be run manually.

For backups to a local hard drive:

  • There are some free solutions like AllWaySync, Microsoft's SyncToy or one of the ones that come with some of the hard drives.
  • There are also paid solutions like Paragon, Shadow Protect and Easeus To-Do-Backup. Paragon and Shadow Protect will allow you to schedule hourly incremental backups as well as some more advanced features that will appeal to some businesses.

When choosing portable hard drives, Might I suggest that you use a ruggedized hard drive like one of the Buffalo MiniStation Plus drive range. Shamal Tennakoon did a presentation where he threw one of the Buffalo drives across the room; he then picked the drive up and used the data on the same drive to complete the presentation.

Last and probably the most important thing you can do with your backups is to perform a test restore from them occasionally, just to ensure that they can be read.

Just to make it really clear - IF YOU CAN'T RESTORE FROM YOUR BACKUP, YOU'VE BEEN WASTING YOUR TIME!

If you require assistance or advice with choosing or setting up a backup solution, feel free to contact us and one of our backup specialists can give you a hand tailoring a backup solution to suit you.

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