In my opinion, you can never overstate the importance of backing up. You just can’t. We’re so reliant on computer technology these days that it is an essential. But it’s not enough just to backup.

You have to backup your backups because things go wrong. Like companies going out of business or experiencing significant downtime.

And that same technology we rely on can let us down because sometimes backups fail. Worried yet? You should be. Here are a few examples of what I mean.

Company Failure

In September, cloud storage company Nirvanix gave its 1000 users two weeks’ notice of its intention to close forever. If you’d been looking for a backup solution in October, it would have seemed a good bet, because the company had been operating successfully for seven years. But it still closed down with very little warning. If you were a business user, that closure announcement could have caused a lot of hassle.

The company did what it could to help customers transition to storage with other providers, but those with a lot of data to transfer over a slow data connection were in trouble. The lesson: relying on a single backup provider makes no sense at all, because if a company goes, your backed up data is gone with it. And that’s the best case scenario, because what happens if sensitive data is sitting on unprotected networks somewhere?

Downtime

You might think that the answer is to store your backup with one of the big boys, like Amazon or Google. While your data might be safer, even those services sometimes experience downtime. As this infographic shows, downtime happens for lots of reasons, including poor construction and maintenance of data centers, natural disasters, human error, squirrels, hunters and cyber terrorism, and the big boys are not exempt.

Cloud Downtime

In September, ironically on Friday 13th, Amazon experienced network issues for quite a while, and the previous month, Google had a major outage which took Internet traffic down by 40 percent. That means using one of these services in isolation is not the answer either.

Backup Failure

Even when you take the step of backing up to an external source, that source may fail. I got a nasty shock the other day when I plugged in a USB stick that had been working fine a day earlier into my PC and the PC failed to recognize it. And so did every other PC where I plugged it in.

Whatever I had on that USB drive is lost forever. And there’s nothing I can do about it. And that’s happened to other people with the portable hard drives they use for additional backup. According to recent research, 20 percent of external hard drives fail within the first four years.

The overall lesson is that relying on a single backup medium or cloud storage provider is foolhardy.

The Alternative

That’s why my favorite backup strategy involves multiple redundant backups. On my Android smartphone, I use a number of backup apps that copy my camera photos and videos to different cloud storage sites, including Google Drive and Dropbox. Google now offers camera sync to a private photos repository, with free storage if you make the photos slightly smaller.

On my desktop, I use a number of paid and free online storage providers., giving me lots of backup options. These include SugarSync for client work, Dropbox for photos, and OneDrive for my old photos and Kindle library. And I also do a regular backup to a portable hard drive.

Some of the information is backed up to more than one place which means I never have to worry about a single provider going out of business, because my stuff is automatically backed up elsewhere. I never have to worry about backup failure because even if it does I can still access my stuff elsewhere. And I don’t have to consider downtime – there’s always somewhere else to access my stuff.

Room for Improvement

Having said that, any backup strategy has to be a work in progress, because you always have to consider what would happen if one element of it failed. In my personal setup, I could improve things by backing up the work that is on my desktop, SugarSync and an external hard drive to Google Drive or a second hard drive.

And completing the automation of photo backup and being more rigorous about copying new photos off the SD card in my digital camera.

For me, the key to improving this setup even further will be automation – the more automatic a backup is, the more likely it is that it will take place. That’s why I never have to worry about client work, but do have to worry about other digital media, which require an action from me to trigger the backup process.

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Conclusion

Perhaps the answer is to use a system like the one outlined by Mitchell Allen, which automates practically everything and takes care of redundancy.

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