Have you backed up your data today?


Today is World Backup Day, I’m told, but to be frank, every day you should be thinking about the safety of your data, there’s just too much of it that’s irreplaceable.

So, today, I’m going to take a quick look at some of the backup systems I use and have in place. Yes, I said systems. No one backup system is infallible, so redundancy is important.

And, of course, this is my thinking on the subject. You may have differing opinions, which is great, as long as you are backing up :smileyhappy:
The What
But before I get into the hardware and software, lets talk a bit about the data itself, by breaking it down into three categories:

I rarely backup applications I’ve bought. The reason is pretty simple, I (likely) already have a physical backup in the form of the disc the application was delivered on.

The exception to this is when I buy software and it’s delivered online. If I’m buying through a large software merchant (Apple’s app store, Steam’s content delivery network, etc) then my purchases are all tracked and recorded so a backup isn’t really needed.

Now if I were buying software directly from a smaller developer, say a dedicated Geocaching application for Windows, then I’d keep a copy of my downloads in a directory that is included in my regular backup routine.

I Don’t Care If It’s Lost
This is a big grey area for me, as I’m a bit of a pack-rat, both digitally and in real life (just ask my wife!).

Things in this category include docs I’ve downloaded and read (and not yet deleted), shortcuts and bookmarks that I leave on my computer’s desktop, or application directories that don’t contain important data (say a Photoshop app directory, but not my working image directories).

Really Important Stuff
Any of my working documents. All personal photos and videos, purchased music & videos (iTunes Library), eBooks, etc. Yes, I could re-download them, but storage is cheap these days so backing them up is a no-brainer.

The How
As I mentioned above, I use a multi-layered approach to backing up my data.

Home Server
First, I use a central Network Attached Storage (NAS) device to host all my data. In my case, I’ve got two drives in the device, and have it set up so that the content of one drive is ‘mirrored’ to another — so if one drive fails, the other will have a safe copy of my data.

I’m currently testing a new Drobo FS device that is a very smart NAS that manages data better than my current Mirrored approach — watch for an upcoming review on that, but so far, I’m very pleased with it.

Offsite Backup
Now, all that data I store (and mirror) on my server is no good if it’s lost in a fire, so at a regular interval, I copy all that data to another hard drive and store that hard drive somewhere offsite.

I use a combination of a BlacX USB SATA drive interface, (basically a smart USB drive holster that supports standard internal HDs) and the ClickFree Transformer to manage the backup process.

In my case, the Transformer backs up my data every day or two, and I swap the backup HDs every week, so my offsite backup is only, at most, a week out of date.

Online Backup
Depending on the type and number of data you’d like to backup, online backup may be an option.

In my case, I don’t do a complete backup to the cloud, but do store some important or current-working docs there.

The big benefit to online backup is that it’s available to you anytime, anywhere there’s an internet connection. The drawbacks, as I see it, are the time it takes to complete a backup, and the fact that you *do* need an internet connection to access the data.

Whatever you do, Backup!
Ok, you’ve seen my system. It’s likely overkill for many of you, but within that system are some solutions that will work for even a simple one-computer home.

But the big takeaway you should have from this post is that if you have data, music, photos, videos, stored on your computer, you really need a safe and secure way to back it up. Hard drives are cheap these days — those wedding, or new baby/puppy photos are irreplaceable, and priceless.
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