Computer Backup Types and Strategies
Have you ever deleted by mistake really important old family photos from your computer, the only copies you have left because of originals vanished from time? Have you ever reformatted a hard disk when you meant to format an external drive? Have you ever typed "Y" when you meant "N" and then it was too late? Have you ever overwritten a file by mistake? How about accidentally installing the software you later found you really did not want (aka malicious)? This was the times when you thought “if I only could reverse time and correct my mistake…”. Well, you could of if you would have a backup in place! Backup systems really can save you hours, days and sometimes month of hard work so you don’t have to do the same work twice.
Need Reasons for Backup?
Here just a few reasons for keeping your backups in place:
• Human error – we humans making mistakes way more often then machines and incompetent or tired mind combined with the fast computer can be a deadly combination.
• Hardware failure – even though our modern computers are very reliable, the problem is you never know when something can break and more often than not it brakes when you need it the most.
• Failed Updates and Software Bugs – It’s not uncommon that computers would simply freeze or crash in the middle of the update and refuse to boot, living you with no possibility to get access to your information. Or things wouldn’t work correctly and you wish you could roll back to the previous version of your system and wait for the next, more stable update. It’s always good practice to backup your computer before any major software or hardware update. Program bugs can be the reason you may lose important information and if you have daily backups then all that you lost is just a day of work which is definitely not as painful as a week or month.
• Spyware and Viruses – Emails containing viruses are accidentally opened every day, recent famous Petya ransomware would load itself to your computer, encrypt your hard drive and threaten to delete all your files if you would not pay hackers money. All viruses once they are in our computer system, create havoc and corrupt valuable data. If you don’t have backups then you definitely will pay one way or the other.
• Free up Disk Space – memory capacity has improved dramatically in the past several years but so have data capacity. How many of us experienced a situation when we are running out of space on our computers and offloading some of the less important files could free up valuable space for our work.
• Natural Disaster or Events Beyond Your Control - fire, floods, lightning or simple theft. If your companies vital billing or customer information got lost, to restore it from paper records is quite hard if not impossible task. After such an occurrence, how will your business survive? A 2007 University of Texas study showed that 43 percent of businesses that suffer major data loss never reopen. Many of these companies end up closing their doors for good within two years of a major data loss. Backups prevent you from such calamities. Having two or more copies of your data stored in fireproof safe and offsite is the only solution for such scenarios.
Last but not least, your business will have competitive advantage. In the untimely event of a disaster, the first business to get back up and running will take all the business of those that aren’t back on their feet.
Different types of backups
Which Backup Solution is Right for You? Before you decide which backup options and strategies you want to use it’s important to know what are the goals you want to accomplish with your backups. Do you want to make sure that all of your files and applications settings are safe and recoverable or you afraid of hardware failure? Do you want to minimize “downtime” and get to work quickly or you want to make sure you still have a copy of your files in case of robbery or natural disaster? Maybe you need to work remotely and you need access to your files from any location. Keeping these questions in mind lets look at the available backup options:
• Backup on CD, DVD and Blu-ray. For many years it was a very popular way to backup your files because almost every computer had a CD or, later, DVD and Blu-ray drive. Its great way for freeing space on your computer, keeping your pictures, financial records and some files that don’t need to be edited, but you need access to them from time to time. It’s slow manual backups and they limited by the size of discs which are not so big considering our modern requirements.
• Hard Drive Clone. There are multiple software solutions that can make bootable backup or system restore drive also called hard drive clone. It is a complete backup of your entire hard drive taken at a specific point in time that can be used to reboot your computer when your hard drive dies or gives you the option to use any computer like your own by booting from the external hard drive. It is purely a snapshot in time and doesn’t have any history or rollback option. The best practice is to update it daily and use for minimizing downtime when your hard drive or computer brakes.
• External Hard Drive Backup. Usually, all modern external hard drives come with preinstalled software that design for automatic backing up of your most important files. It’s great for keeping history of changes and even deleted files. You can think about it as going back in time (Apple version of such backups actually called Time Machine) and accessing your files version at that moment. Such backups is one of the best ways of fixing a mistake, which went unnoticed for a certain number of days or even weeks. It can be setup to run with specified time-frequency (that still can miss some changes you made in-between) and usually located near your computer which in case of robbery or natural disaster will not give you a peace of mind. Although you can set up these backups at the remotely located hard drive or computer, to address problems with disasters, you might need to work with network connection and firewall limitations.
• Online and Cloud Storage Services. Services like iCloud Drive, Dropbox, Google Drive are not really a backup solutions even though they are providing multiple copies of the same file in different places. Their primary purpose is for syncing and sharing files between multiple devices and users. When you delete a file in one place, it will be deleted at all of them and if that deletion was an accident, you have just multiplied a mistake. Online cloud backup service on the other hand is specifically designed for convenience of archive backups. You only limited by the speed of your internet connection. It’s set it and forget it solution with high redundancy. They do not store your information on one drive (which could fail at any moment). Instead your information is backed up on many drives, in many locations. When one drive dies, the information on it is stored elsewhere and will be automatically replicated to other drives. Some services even have option to ship you a hard drive with all your data in case of emergency so you are not limited by the speed of network connection when restoring your backup. For maximum security, we recommend to encrypted your files locally, before they are uploaded. Most cloud backup providers offering automatic encryption of your files before they are uploaded, but you can add a private security key for even more confidentiality.
What is the best backup strategy for you?
A good backup strategy will include at least two or more of the above. The optimal formula is 3-2-1:
3 copies of your data
2 copies of your data onsite, but on different devices
1 copy off-site
Have subscription for a Cloud Backup Service in case of stolen computer, floods or fire accidents.
Local Archive Backup to give yourself added peace of mind if you accidentally delete files.
The last piece of a good backup strategy – Bootable Disc Cloning to ensure that you can get to work immediately when your hard drive or computer dies.
As always, please feel free to leave comments or ask questions.
All the Best, Nikolay Shpurik