Backup, Backup, Backup

If you’ve ever lost one priceless picture of your kids, had to recreate your entire family tree from scratch, or had to rewrite a term paper just before it’s due, then you already know the importance of what I’m talking about; backups. There are two kinds of people, those who’ve lost important data before, and those who will.

The most difficult part of this job is having to tell people that their data is gone. Most people don’t opt for professional data recovery, which is both expensive, and not guaranteed to work. Usually they just grieve for what was lost and move on. This can, however, be avoided with some very basic and easy backup techniques, the most important of which is to keep to a schedule.

There are two mail things to protect agains: mechanical failure of a hard drive, and disasters such as theft, fire, flood, etc. Each technique protects against particular threats. Ideally we’ll approach this with multiple techniques so as to protect against each.

Local

Mechanical failure is the most likely thing to cause lost data, and also the easiest to protect against. All you need to do is have at least two copies of your data on at least two different mediums

This can be accomplished in a few different ways:

  1. We can laboriously copy all our data to CDs or DVDs. This is certainly the cheapest option in terms of money, though it requires quite a bit of labor. So often I hear that someone has relied upon this method but never gets around to actually making new backups as to make this method virtually worthless.

  2. We can manually copy all our data to an external hard drive. This has all the disadvantages of number 1 without the cheap cost.

  3. We can use software to copy all our data to an external drive on a schedule. This is surprisingly inexpensive depending on the program chosen and available, if a little difficult to setup. It provides the most reliable local backup as you cannot just “forget to run it”. The only problems with this method is when you have a portable computer as it’s easy to forget to plug the device in.

Remote

In a disaster that takes out your computer and it’s peripherals, a local backup is useless. The techniques to protect our data against these kinds of failures is similar to local backups, with the added twist of having your data stored elsewhere such as:

  1. Do local backups as above times two and just drop one copy off somewhere else, a safety deposit box, maybe a relative’s house. This is the cheapest option, but like burning your data to CDs, likely to be forgotten.

  2. An online service that stores your backup “in the cloud” so to speak. These incur a monthly charge, but is a “set it and forget it” solution. The only problem with these services are the cost, and–depending on the solution there can be privacy concerns.

Solution

The solution I use is a combination of many of the options I’ve described here. I use a service called “CrashPlan”. Note: At the time of this writing I do not resell or advertise for CrashPlan, though as you’ll see, I’d love to. This recommendation is coming from a happy customer not a salesman.

What CrashPlan provides is essentially software as well as a service. If you do not subscribe to the service, you still get the software for free. Lets talk about the things that CrashPlan does for me and I’ll make sure to mention when I get to the paid part…

  1. Automates backups to my other computers. Free.

  2. Automates backups to an external hard drive. Free

  3. Allows me to send some encrypted backups to a friend, they just donate space to hold my backups, and I can do the same to them. Note, we cannot just open each other’s files, they are encrypted blobs to us, but useful backups to the owner. Free.

  4. Allows me to backup over the Internet from anywhere in a secure manner to those locations I have designated (A friend or my other computers). Free

  5. Gives me emails describing my backups, from where, how big, and how long it’s been since you’ve backed up. Free

  6. Gives me space on their servers to backup to. This one is paid.

Again let me mention that you can do the first five without paying them a dime. The only thing that requires money is when they give you space. I love this service and highly suggest it for my customers.

If you have the confidence to do this on your own, go give it a try, you’ll thank me when your hard drive dies. If you do not, just give me a call and I’ll be glad to set it up for you. If you have another solution, please comment and let me know, I’m always looking for ways to streamline this for both my customers and I.

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