Archive for "Data Recovery"

Backing up files…are you SURE you are doing it?

Data Recovery, Linux, Windows 7 May 28, 2009 6 Comments

Backing up your data is one of the most important things you can do. I believe that most people understand that, however I do not believe most people fully comprehend what a “backup” really is.

Being an IT professional I hear again and again that “I was backing my stuff off to and external hard disk, and it just crashed, can you recover my files?”

Well if you need me to recover the hard drive did you really have a “backup?” I am not saying this trying to be a jerk, even I need reminding every once in a while regarding this topic.

Lets look at how backup is defined:


1 a: one that serves as a substitute or support <a backup plan> b: musical accompaniment c: additional personnel who provide assistance

2: an accumulation caused by a stoppage in the flow <traffic backup>

3: a copy of computer data (as a file or the contents of a hard drive) ; also : the act or an instance of making a backup

For data purposes definitions 1 and 3 would be appropriate.  Just moving a file to off your local hard-drive to another storage medium (i.e. USB Thumb drive, External Hard Drive, DVD, the Internet) is not backing up.  This is simply transferring a file, if that USB drive was to fail, would you have a copy of the file to fall back on?

So what are some of the most used consumer mediums for doing backups?


Pros: Very cheap, very common, easily taken offsite

Cons: Easily damaged, slow, hard to verify, relatively small size when backing up media files

USB Thumb Drives

Pros: Cheap, USB very common, fast, reliable, fairly large sizes available (32GB max at time of writing), easily taken offsite

Cons: Easy to lose due to high portability

External Hard Disk

Pros: Fast, very large size with just single disk, hard to lose, high availability, easy to automate

Cons: More costly than previous options, transfer between systems can be confusing due to such large amounts of data, generally onsite.

Cloud Storage (Internet)

Pros: Very cheap, unlimited amounts of storage, can’t really lose it, high availability (depending on system), easy to automate, backup is backed up by host, easily encrypted, always offsite

Cons: Slow (dependant on your Internet connection speed), must have internet access to see files, reliability unknown as it is fairly new.

So now that you know some very common relatively cheap mediums for backing up your data, lets looks at some important factors to take into consideration:

Location  (On-Site / Off-Site) –  Most people who do backups (myself included) have a bad habit of leaving them in the same location as your store your computer.  Consider this…if your house caught fire or flooded (probably more likely) and you lost your computer and its backup, you will probably be asking yourself “What was the point of doing all those backups?”  Most businesses send their backups to an offsite location for exactly that reason.  Now, this doesnt mean you have to pay someplace to do this.  Send DVD’s to a family members house once a month, use an online backup tool like JungleDisk or Mozy, put the files on your personal website storage space through FTP, put a hard disk in your storage unit.  There are tons of way to do this for free!

Security – Most consumers do straight A -> B backup.  This type of backup takes the data that is local to your hard disk and replicats it to the backup.  This means if someone gets a hold of your backup file(s) (intercepts) they can view the contents of that file with out any credentials. If you are using an offsite backup, that means your data has the opportunity to get intercepted.  It could happen in the mail or over the internet.  No matter how you do this, encrypt your backups!

Speed – This matters because the more data you backup, the more time it will take to run the backup job.  This is one area where online backups are less than ideal.  The initial backup over an interenet connection can take hours, even days if you are doing alot of media files.

Cost – You want a solution that is monetarily viable for the long term.  You dont want to keep switching backup solutions (trust me on that one).  When you start doing that it becomes confusing and data can easily get lost in the process.

Over the years I have tried many diffferent solutions.  Currently I run a combination of external hard disks + JungleDisk for online storage.  I keep all of my very large unchanged items (music collection, photos, videos) backed up to my external disk.  All of my smaller files such as Documents, PDF’s, and financial files I keep backed up to my JungleDisk, encrypted of course.

This method helps keep costs down, and backup time low.

If you have other methods I would love to know!