I’ve been in the backup business for about 5 years now. I’ve seen people and businesses lose their data, which is a terrible loss indeed. What remains is a broken heart (and even at times an empty wallet) for people who lost their data and worse yet, devastation for businesses.
Unfortunately, hard drives fail and they fail a lot. SSDs don’t make things prettier either, they may be faster but they are also prone to error.
That’s why it is very important to have a solid, healthy and automated backup strategy for your computer files that takes all the possible risks into account but is also accessible and easy to manage. So what are some of the characteristics of a healthy backup strategy? We’ll dive into that in this article.
Know Your Data
In order to have a good backup strategy in place, you need to know your data and how you want to prioritize it. Start with thinking about data which is only stored and accessed very rarely.
That can make a huge difference in cost, especially with businesses. If data doesn’t have to accessed a lot, then cheap archival options are available.
KISS = Keep it Stupidly Simple
Though thinking thoroughly about your backup strategy is crucial, it is also important to keep it simple. Don’t over complicate things. You really do need redundant copies of your files in multiple locations, but keep in mind what I mentioned in point #1.
After prioritizing your data, you’ll know what kind of files you need to backup daily, weekly and monthly. If you’re in for a little advanced backup stuff, you can use the Grandfather-father-son backup strategy which belongs to the backup rotation schemes.
Your daily backups are rotated daily where one gets a father backup each week, from those weekly backups, one gets a grandfather and so on.
Keep it Redundant
Many people make the mistake of thinking that if they backup once, they’re safe. Everything is stored on an external hard drive and now everything is fine, right? Well…let’s just say one backup just isn’t enough. You need at least two backups: one on-site (an HDD) and another one off-site with an online backup provider.
This is crucial as you’ll reduce the risk of data loss significantly the more backup versions you add. Obviously, you don’t have to go overboard. But my mantra always is and will be: there is no such thing as enough backups.
Keep it Safe and Secure
Many people have sensitive information on their machines, yet they do very little to protect sensitive files from third-parties. That’s why it’s very important to encrypt your files before you store it somewhere.
Doesn’t matter if it’s your external hard drive or off-site. You might skip this step if you don’t think there is anything to hide, but bad people can abuse details such as your rental contract, family photos, e-mails, personal stats and other personal files.
If you are a business user, then encryption is vital to protect your business from sneaky hackers who are looking to take you down.
Make Versioning a Top Priority
What is file versioning? File versioning is when your backup service or program keeps multiple instances of your files over time whenever, as they change. So let’s assume you’re working on a master’s thesis and are about 30 pages in.
Now accidentally, a whole paragraph gets deleted (or heaven forbid a full page) by and the document ends up getting saved.
What could have been a disaster without versioning turned on, is now just a few clicks away. This is just one example. You’ll find yourself using versioning over and over again, so if you miss this critical step in a backup strategy, the loss of precious data could real, real fast.
Consider Bare Metal Backups
This one is similar to our first tip: you have to know what kind of data you want to backup. I wanted to address this in a separate point because this can be important for many people. Ask yourself if you need a complete backup of absolutely everything. And by everything, I mean everything including program and system files.
System images of bare metal backups will allow you to restore a system exactly as it was before. Which might be useful in some cases, but also will increase your bill if you store it off-site. First make sure critical data is backed up and then consider adding more to it.
Test, Test, Test
This one is crucial – backup is only as good as the restore. The best backup strategy in the world can’t help you if the restoration doesn’t work properly, so set yourself a schedule that will allow you to perform test restores every month (or even more often if the data is critical, but one month is a good starting point).
Obviously, this list is not definitive, but it’s a good start. I’d like to know what your backup strategy is.
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