Wednesday, June 17, 2009

The Ultimate Backup Solution

I'm not a stranger to data loss. I have had a total of 4 hard drive failures, 2 of which resulted in important (personal) data loss, of which one was successfully recovered by a data specialist company, one of which all hope was lost. Read: gone forever.

I definitely took these experiences in stride, and learned to adjust my data habits to be more resilient to hard drive failures, or freak accidents. Here is opinion of an ultimate backup solution:

1. Digital Backups - these are a must for catching small data losses in between the complete hardware backups
  • SyncBack - I can't say enough good things about this program. It is by far the most user friendly and quickest to set up, but at the same time remains completely customizable for power users like myself. And to top it off, it's FREE. Make sure to do test runs and periodically make sure it has completed runs. Haven't had a problem yet, but you can't be too sure.
  • Weekly - at a bare minimum they should be weekly backups, and if you're constantly taking pictures/movies or working on projects it should really be daily.
  • Completely Different Hard Drive - this is a must. If you just back up the data to a different location on the same drive you might save yourself from the most benign data corruption issue, but anything more and you're data is toast, along with your backup. If need be purchase a small external hard drive or at the rate thumb/flash drive capacities are increasing one of those might work.
2. Hardcopy Backups - If anyone tells you that having just a digital backup is adequate, they clearly haven't met Murphy. That and something called an electrical spike.
  • CD/DVD Media (Tape is even better if you have enough of it) - Make sure to get a decent quality brand. You'll know you don't have one if your recording fails more than once in 10 or so discs. (either that or you're trying to multitask too much or your computer sucks)
  • Twice A year / 6 Months - I have found this to be a sufficiently frequent yet not too consuming time period between backups. If it helps, use occasions such as the new year and then mid summer to remind that it's time to backup.
  • Bare Minimum - for this backup I recommend doing just the bare minium of My Documents/Videos/Pictures etc because you don't want to go through too many DVDs and make the task too arduous.
  • Protection - Be sure not to put these backup discs back on a spool (the 25-50 set holders) because they're too prone to scratching and other damage. Instead pick up a cheap $5 disc case and use that.
  • Firesafe or Emergency Box - This one isn't required but if you're like me and your entire life is stored in a digital library I recommend putting your hardcopy backups in a small firesafe or one of those emergency boxes with your important documents. It doesn't take up much space and you can grab it quickly in an emergency.
3. Cloud Backup - I have yet to find a cost effective and speedy enough service to place my digital files online for extended periods of time in the form of backups. But this is definitely an option and one that will be increasingly viable as we move towards cloud computing (all data online).

As any conscious netizen should do, please do your own research and make up your own mind. Don't blame me for anything that happens to your data, my suggestions are exactly that. That being said, I hope that I may have said something that will help your data be more secure.

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