Tech

Do you even back up?

Backup

It’s early Monday – the time between the coffee and checking emails – you realise everything’s gone. Files. Videos of your children since they were  born. Years of company’s spreadsheets. Gone. It’s not going to be a good week, for sure.

There are 2 kinds of people…

According to one of the IT jokes, there are two kinds of people: ones who do back up, and the ones who will.

If you are in the first group, you’re good and can go and enjoy the sun rain (did I mention I’m based in the UK?), or you can read through and later send this article to your mates.

If you are in the “I will do backup” group, better have a seat, and rethink your attitude. Because it’s been very wrong.

We usually don’t realise that something’s important to us until we lose it (that’s why there are tons of love songs about that she/he dumped him/her), and while retrieving data might be possible, it will cost you a lot of stress, time and (probably) money. The worst part is, there is no guarantee to successful recovery.

The file loss is like a diarrhoea , it comes out of blue

The reason might be anything, at any time. It suddenly happens, and when we realise it, it’s already too late.

The device or hard drive might die, the files might be ‘accidentally’ damaged deleted by your ex-partner, your online backup might simply disappear – just because it’s been hosted by some 3rd party company.

Imagine a situation when your manager, or (what’s worst) your partner comes to you and asks for some documents/pictures from 5 years ago. At once, with a smile on your face you answer easily: ‘There you go’. A few clicks later you realise the files are not there, and don’t  remember moving them anywhere. Typical.

You can ask for some time, and remain silent.

At the given moment, there’s only hope left (and believe me, that’s a terrible feeling), that the files are somewhere else. The only action you can do is to go through countless number of folders, network share, USB sticks and CDs. How come there’s no any kind of a backup?

Because the backup has never been made.

You are the only one who knows the best, how much your files are actually worth. So I’m not going to do maths here, instead – I’d like to present you some options. And believe me – once done – you’ll sleep a way better.

What do I need to do backup?

There a quite a few options, most of them are one-off payment. Done.

External hard disk

Probably the most popular way of doing backups. It’s simple, yet effective and cheap. You can literally copy and paste your stuff if you wish, just to make it safer.

Pros:

  • Cheapest price/space ratio – you can buy 2TB drive for circa £70
  • Long lasting – up to 10 years

Cons:

  • Can only be connected to one computer at the time
  • Works only with computers

Optical media – CD/DVD/BR

Pros:

  • Really cheap
  • Once burnt, cannot be erased (read only memory)

Cons:

  • Quite low in space
  • Can be easily scratched/bend, and therefore damaged

NAS – it’s like your very own cloud drive

It’s nothing but a hard drive, but connected to a network rather than a computer. It’s more expensive than external hard drive, but also much more powerful.

Pros:

  • Accessible from many devices, including smartphones
  • Some models are even accessible via Internet
  • Some models can handle multiple hard drives, which grants more space and/or redundancy
  • It’s independent, doesn’t need a computer to operate
  • Based on manufacturer, can have extra features e.g. work as media server

Cons

  • Must be powered on all the time
  • If the device dies, it might not be simple to access files which are stored on HDD (but still, a way easiest than actually recovering data), the reason beign is that NAS usually uses some specialised file system for storing data, which is often not supported by computers without special software.

USB Sticks/SD Cards

Small and fast, like hard drives you can literally copy and paste onto them, but I wouldn’t keep crucial stuff on it. Think of these like a temporary solution, or a way of moving files from one device to another. While sizes up to 128-256GB can come below £50 these days, all above come still more expensive.

Pros:

  • Much faster than external hard drive
  • You can always carry it with yourself

Cons:

  • Few times more expensive than ordinary hard drive for given space
  • As they are usually small, they can be easily lost

Cloud Storage

You can upload your files from any device and download them to any device, as long as you’ve got the Internet access. Often you can “undelete” files for some period of time. It is often subscription based, therefore you must pay a fee to use it and access your files. Usually you must put all your files in one dedicated folder. Then this folder is synchronised across all your devices.

Cloud storage often supports versioning – multiple versions of one file. That means if you’ve been working on one file for some time saving it multiple times, it might allow you to roll it back to the state from couple of months.

Examples of the free services:

  • Dropbox – offers 2GB on start, which can further expanded
  • Google Drive – Offers 15GB, requires gmail email account
  • OneDrive – offers 5GB, requires Hotmail/outlook.com account. Comes pre-installed with Windows 8 and 10.

Pros:

  • Files accessible across multiple devices
  • Synchronisation and versioning of files
  • Possibility to “undelete” files

Cons:

  • Usually free on limit size scope (most popular services vary between 2, 5 and 15GB), than subscription is required
  • You entrust your precious files to some 3rd party company

Cloud Backup

This is my favourite solution. You need to install an application on your system which monitors your hard drive and makes an instant backup to the cloud. It works in the background so it is completely transparent and automatic. Until you need to restore some data, simply fire out the app (or log in to the web interface) and pick what must be recovered. This is like complete peace of mind, but obviously is not free – on the other hand, the store allowance is often unlimited, which is a real value for money.

Some example services are Carbonite and IDrive.

Pros:

  • Fully automatic and transparent backup
  • Versioning of files

Cons:

  • Usually not free
  • Might take your broadband, especially when operating on the massive files

Whoah, that was quite a list. I wanted to give you the idea of actual possibilities of backups, on different mediums and price range. My personal favourites are External hard drives, NAS and Online Backup, but whichever you choose, be ensured that you making the world a better place.

Let’s dispel some myths about backup

As always, there are few things spinning around which are worth explaining.

RAID will not save data

RAID – as the abbreviation suggest is – redundant array of independent disks, which means nothing but a multiple hard drives to which one set of data is saved. So if you save a file to a RAID drive, its copy will be on every single hard drive, in the case of failure of one, data is still safe in on the other drive.

RAID will not save your data, If you delete it. It protects your data only from physical damage of the hard drive. That means if you’ve got a mirror setting made out of 2 hard drives, and one of them dies, data will still be in absolutely perfect shape on the other drive. But if instead, you your cat highlights files and press DELETE button, data will be gone, from every hard drive.

No medium would last forever

While hard drives are reasonably long lasting, it’s worth to replace them every, say, 5 years. And please, do not store your sensitive files on USB sticks and DVD drives – you wouldn’t believe how many times I’ve seen melancholic person because it’s USB stick suddenly died after a few years. ‘But it was absolutely fine this morning’ well, ‘it was’ is fair enough explanation.

One backup is not enough

Once you are on the light sight (doing backups I mean) there is one more little secret you might like to know – having only one backup might not be good enough. Misfortune happens in the herds – and so backup drives die in groups. Or data could be damaged long before you’ve realised it. That’s why having extra layer of security can be really a wise choice.

I personally back up all my data to one central computer, which has attached external hard drive to it. And then I copy all this stuff to another external hard drive, which is only plugged in during the backup, all the other time it remains unused.

So even if my laptop dies, my desktop dies, my external drive connected to the desktop dies – I still have this external guy waiting to come in action and save the situation. Pretty smart, eh? Imagine this sort of backup cost me less than £100.

In enterprise, not always everything on your computer is being backed up

Having a total backup of the entire computer might be a really disk-consuming process. Therefore companies often back up only selected folders like documents, or so called personal folder. Therefore if you are not sure what is backed up in your company, go and ask your friendly IT guy. Make your and his life much easier.

I hope you’ve realised by now why and how to back up

As you can see, it’s not a difficult or expensive task. Especially if you can compare to the worst case scenario when data recovery is necessary (and we might be talking here about hundred and thousands of pounds – not to mention the operational cost lost.) All the tools are built in the operating system you use, or very easy to be configured.

However, if you’d like some further guidance about backup, go ahead and ask me in comments.

Spread the word about backup

go and tell your spouse, colleagues, mates and dog (because, why not!) about the importance of a backup. It’s like a wheel in the boot of the car or first aid kit. You can even refer them to me and this article, I’ll be more than happy to help to understand the whole process! Even if you are an IT Ninja like me, show this to your colleagues, show that you are not just talking about why backup is important!

Now, once armoured in all this knowledge and experience, what’s your excuse not to back up?

0 comments on “Do you even back up?

Leave a Reply