30% That number may not mean much at a glance but that number is the percentage of people who had never backed up their systems as of this year’s World Backup Day. That means nearly one in every 3 people are running the risk of losing their files, pictures, music and other important information. This information may not seem all that important right now. But when it’s lost, many people are left contemplating how much they would rather have those files that they’ll now never see again.
If that sounds bad, just wait because it gets worse. Some people do back up, but they do so in an inadequate manner. A manner so inadequate that they may well not back up at all. By including people who back up only once every year+, the number number rises to a whopping 66%. Two out of every three people are either not backing up at all or, at best, are backing up only once a year.
The question you should be asking yourself right now is: Am I one of those people? If you are, why? Whether you’re running a business with critical information, or just storing the family photos, backing up your data should be one of your top priorities. Especially if you only have one copy of those files available.
But my data isn’t that important
This is one of the most common reasons people don’t back up their data. This is an easy excuse when there are no problems preset. However, when things go haywire and data is lost, the importance of even a small number of files becomes increasingly apparent. Unfortunately, in these cases, the damage is already done and the files are likely lost forever. So why take the risk? Wouldn’t it be a much better situation to say “well I’ll have to restore from a backup” than to say “I’ve lost my files forever”?
But backing up is such a hassle
Another common reason people don’t back up is because it’s a hassle or they don’t know how to go about it. While it is true that, depending on the method of backup used, it can be a minor inconvenience, it’s just that. Minor. It’s much, much less of an inconvenience to back up once a week to a set of DVDs or an external harddrive than it would be should all of that data go up in smoke due to a hard drive failure.
So what do I need to do?
There are several backup methods available to you. Which one you use will depend on personal preference as well as and time concerns.
- File Duplication/File Copying
- This could be considered the simplest form of backing up. Simply copying important files to a USB thumbdrive, external hard drive, or DVD(s). This type of backup can be done from within your native operating system simply by dragging and dropping your files from their current location onto a USB drive. Most OSes will automatically initiate a copy operation and duplicate the file onto the external media. This media can then be either stored near the computer, in a safety deposit box, etc. The benefits here are the ease of backing up a select number of files as well as the speed in which it can be done. The downside is that this is not a very secure method of backing up data and the backup is only as good as the media you’re using. USB flash drives in particular can fail without warning and the last thing you want is to find out your backup device conked out right when you needed it. Additionally, while this method works well for a few files, if you have a lot of data there are much better and more efficient ways to create a backup.
- Drive Imaging
- When performing a backup using Drive Imaging, a “snapshot” of your hard drive is taken. This snapshot contains not only all of your personal files and data but also the files of your operating system and programs. The major benefit here is that, in the event of a hard drive failure you can simply replace the drive and restore the backup. Once completed you will be able to use your computer as if nothing had ever happened and your hard drive had never crashed. Many drive imaging softwares will also compress the backup image file to save space on your backup media. This method of backup is supported natively by both Windows and Mac OSX through the Backup and Restore and Time Machine programs respectively. This type of backup is much more thorough and is generally preferred to simple file copies due to the ability to recover from serious data disasters more easily. It still however, requires external media to save backups to which means that, in the event of a fire, flood, tornado, or other large-scale disaster, your information may still be at risk.
- Online/Cloud Backup
- Online or Cloud based backups have grown in popularity the past few years due to their ease of use and, “set it and forget it” methodology. Online backup solutions, such as Carbonite, can automatically search your computer for files to backup and will upload them over the internet, to large datacenters located in other states. Individual files or folders can also be selected for backup manually. The primary benefits here are the simplicity of setting a file to be backed up once, and any changes made to it afterwards are automatically backed up. Most online backup solutions also offer what is known as file revisioning. This means that if you make any changes to a file, both the newly changed file, as well as the original are kept in the backup. You also don’t have to worry about external backup media. However, most importantly, your data is stored off-site meaning that, in the event of a fire, flood or other emergency, your data is still safe and sound.
Now, that said there are a couple of drawbacks when using cloud-based backup solutions. The first one is data security. While many backup solutions are built with security in mind (Carbonite, for instance is HIPAA certified and uses up to 256-bit encryption), you are still trusting your data to a third party. If you are extremely sensitive about the contents of your data, online backup may not be the best choice. Another drawback is the fact that online backups will not take a full snapshot of your hard drive. So while you can recover files, photos, and other data which is still important, being able to restore your entire computer to a “nothing ever happened” state is not an option.
So which way is the best way to backup? Well, technically none of the above are completely perfect. However, by utilizing a combination of the three methods listed above, you can create a foolproof plan that will ensure you have access to whatever you need, when you need it.
This plan is known as the 3-2-1 backup rule. It goes as follows:
- Keep at least three (3) copies of your data. The more copies of your data that you have, the less likely you will lose that data should one or more of those copies fail. By having three copies of the data (including the original), you will have a much higher chance of being able to recover from any sort of disaster scenario.
- Keep backed up data on two (2) different storage types. Whether it’s flash drives, hard drives, magnetic tape, or DVDs nothing is impervious to data loss. By keeping your backups on multiple mediums you can prevent being put in a situation where your backups are rendered useless due to things like obsolete tech or system component failures.
- Keep at least one (1) copy of your data off-site. This is the biggie. It doesn’t matter how many copies you make of a file, if they’re all stored in the same location they’re all equally vulnerable in the event that location burns down or floods out. Having at least one copy of data off-site will ensure that you won’t have to worry about that happening.
Enjoy the peace of mind
Once you have everything all backed up, you can rest easy knowing that your files are safe and sound against loss, corruption and any other potential headache inducing travesty. Just remember, having a backup doesn’t mean much if it’s not up to date. And having multiple backups doesn’t do you much good either if they’re all in the same location. However, with plans like the 3-2-1 backup rule you can make sure that you’ll be prepared for whatever may happen in the future.