Make sure you back up!

Nowadays almost all our most precious items are stored digitally: home movies, photos, music, documents, etc.  Losing this data would be disastrous and yet most of us do not have adequate backup strategies to prevent loss.  The only excuse to not protecting this data properly is a lack of education as you can backup this data up quickly, easily, and affordably.  This article will help you understand how prepared you are if disaster struck and how you can easily ensure your data remains safe in all sorts of disasters.

Disaster Scenarios

Think about the following ways in which you can lose data:

  • Accidental – A file is accidentally deleted or corrupted (ex. you overwrite the file, application crashes and corrupts the file, you fat finger and delete the file)
  • Breakage – The computer, drive, CD/DVD, etc that holds your data is broken (ex. drive dies, DVD is warped)
  • Theft – The computer, drive, CD/DVD, etc that holds your data is stolen (ex. your house is robbed)
  • Catastrophic – The computer, drive, CD/DVD, etc that holds your data is destroyed (ex. house fire/flood)
The above ways to lose your data are real and can happen at any time.  Are you covered if any one of the above happens?  If so, you are ahead of most people and should read the rest to ensure your protection methods are sound.  If not, read on to understand how you can quickly get your data protected.
Protection Methods
Below are a few ways data is traditionally protected:
  • Drive Protection – a system that writes data to multiple disks and will continue to work even if a single drive fails
    ex. http://www.buy.com/cat/raid-external-hard-drive/65152.html
  • Local Back Up – have a second copy handy on a backup drive/disc
    ex. Burn a copy to DVD, store a copy on a backup USB hard drive
  • Remote Storage – keep a second copy handy remotely
    ex. Keep your backup DVD or USB drive at your parent’s house
  • Fire/Flood Proof – store your primary or backup data in fire/flood proof containers
    ex. Use a fire/flood proof USB hard drive, store your backup DVD or USB drive in a fireproof safe
  • Cloud Storage – send copies of your data to an online backup site
    ex. Sign up and use online backup services like Carbonite or Crashplan
Protection Method Downfalls
Before choosing the right protection method, you should be aware of the potential downfalls of each:
  • Drive Protection – This only provides drive protection.  This does not protect against accidental deletion,  theft, fire, flood, etc.
  • Local Back Up – This protects against drive failure and accidental deletion but not theft, fire, flood, etc.  You will also have to grow your local backup storage as your data grows (ex. buy a larger drive).
  • Remote Storage – This protects against all disasters but requires discipline (ex. regularly ship backups offsite) and acceptance of file loss between backups (ex. just lost that file you worked on all day).  Depending on where you place your remote storage, a single disaster could destroy both your local and remote files simultaneously (ex. power surge or hurricane at your house and your parent’s house down the block).  You will also have to grow your remote backup storage as your data grows (ex. burn multiple DVD’s).
  • Fire/Flood Proof – This provides minimal protection against fire or flood (these devices are rated to withstand certain temperatures/water levels for certain periods of time).  This does not protect against accidental  deletion and provide moderate protection against theft (i.e. you can bolt these devices to concrete).
  • Cloud Storage – This protects against all disasters and occurs automatically in real time.  Downfalls are moderate risk of data theft during transmission or at the cloud storage facility (you can always encrypt) in addition to the risk of the company ending service (even if that happens, you still have your data and can simply choose another service).
Recommendation
Sign up for a cloud storage backup solution.  This provides the best protection with the smallest effort and arguably at the cheapest cost (other methods require purchase of equipment, maintenance, etc).  After much research and experience, I recommend CrashPlan+.  It’s automatic, secure, includes unlimited storage (grows with you as your data grows), saves copies of files you deleted, allows access of your files from any computer or smartphone, and more all for less than $3 a month (lowest price anywhere).  Don’t screw around or cheap out – get this service, trust me.
Any other method added is merely for convenience and additional protection.  Personally, I do NOT recommend remote storage or fire/flood proof safes.  The are overly manual, require strict discipline, and offer moderate protection for the price and trouble.  I use CrashPlan+ cloud backups in addition to drive protection (RAID 5 so I don’t experience downtime if a drive fails – God forbid my kids can’t access their videos) and a local backup (which ideally would be fire/flood proof) for critical files only.