Backup 101 for Personal and Business Users
What is a Backup and Why Do I Need One?
A backup, or better stated as the process of backing up, is one of the most important computer terms you should know. It refers to creating a copy and archive of your files. This backup protects you from losing your documents, photos, and any other type of file you want to preserve in the case your originals are lost.
What Can Cause a Data Loss?
Why do you need a backup? Because of possible data loss and corruption! What could cause you to lose your data? Here are a few examples:
- Human Error
- Hardware Failure
- Virus Infection
- Software Error
- Power Failure
- Power Surge
- Head Crash
- Controller Failure
- Server Failure
- Malware Damage
- Water Damage
We promise this list above isn’t to scare you of all the things that can go wrong with your data, but we do want you to understand the very serious possibility and even how easy it can be to lose your files.
All too often, we have had to explain to a customer, friends, and family that their family photos cannot be recovered. It is heartbreaking and even more so because it is easily preventable. Don’t let this happen to you.
The Difference Between a Backup and Storage
Ideally, you would have many copies of your data -not just one. However, having one backup should be your absolute minimum. Storage in another location is not a backup.
For example, moving all of your data off your computer and storing it on an external hard drive is not a backup. There is still only one copy. Now your only source of data is on the external hard drive and you need to back up the external hard drive.
Storing your data on CDs or on Backup drives in a fireproof safe or safety deposit box is not a backup unless you have more than one copy.
Online backup companies assume you are keeping your data on your premise. They usually have a 30-day retention. After that, they assume the file is not wanted and will remove from online storage.
Online storage syncs with your original source – it is not a backup. A backup is a duplication of your data files stored in another place. Don’t move your files to an external hard drive – COPY them.
There are online backup solutions, just be sure of what you are signing up for is actually a backup service and not online storage.
Backups Should Be Redundant
There are three main types of redundancy – Media, Time, Method.
Media relates to the points above. Your backup should be stored on multiple hard drives or multiple tape drives, or multiple anything. There need to be many copies.
Time has to do with using your backup to restore a file or data as it was 7 days ago. You should have enough copies of your data see what it looked like back in time. How far you want to go back in time depends on your business.
What if the file you need was corrupted 4 days ago but you only have a backup from 1 day ago?
Method is all about backing data up multiple ways. Online backup, image-level backup, and copy to an on-premise Hard Drive are examples of this type of redundancy. The more ways you back things up the better – of course, this is all within reason. There’s no need to get excessive.
How Often Should You View Backup Logs? Regularly.
And by viewing logs regularly, we mean every day, ideally. We know that’s not always possible, but if it means adding a note on your calendar to check your logs, by all means, do it.
If you don’t check your backups, how do you know your backup is working? What if there was an unknown error a month ago? God forbid, a year ago or more?
Many users can get by with checking and testing backups a few times a year. For a business, that’s not normally the case (see above – every day!), but personal users may be able to test their backups just a few times a year if you are not regularly adding new data.
How should you test your backup – which files should you test? Open your backup software and try and restore data to an alternate location. Start with your most critical data then just randomly chose other data – some photos, some documents. If the restore works and you can read the data or view the picture you should be good to go.
Are You Protected On and Off-Site?
Let’s say you have a backup. You’re good about it and have it on an external hard drive, stored in your office or home office. What happens when there’s a fire? Or even a theft? What do you do now? Do you keep your backup device in your laptop bag? Let’s think about this a little bit…
Don’t worry, there is a way to prevent total loss of your backup. The most effective way to do this is with online backup solutions. Here are a few online backup solutions, in fact, the best of best based on ranking by PCMag:
- SOS Online Backup
- Acronis True Image
You can see more options and learn more about each of these online backups in the “The Best Online Backup Services of 2018” by PCMag.
One of our favorite backup solutions is Carbonite as well. We use them constantly.
More Details To Consider Before You Backup
There are even more items to consider about choosing backup solutions including:
- How fast do you need to be able to recover?
- How fast is your data growing – plan on space requirements
- Security of your backup data
- Service provider’s reputation. Read their online reviews.
- What’s the cost? What is included in those costs?
- What type of data do you need to store?
- Can you Internet speed support sending data and receiving data at the rate you need?
- Ease of use – how easy will it be to set up the solution?
- Who will need and have access to the backups?
- Will multiple backups be stored or will the most recent backup replace the older backups?
- Customer support – will the provider be responsive in a time of need?
We hope this gave you a comprehensive look at the importance of backups as well as the “how-to’s” of backing up your data. If you have more questions or need help, give us a call at 573-860-6388. We’re happy to help and this is right up our alley.
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