Do you have a safe and secure backup system for your data?

Question

I intend to use (a recently installed second hard drive) to back up the data on the master drive. Is there an easy way to do what I'm trying to do?

- Scooter & Lynette

Answer

This question was answered on December 18, 2003. Much of the information contained herein may have changed since posting.

The backup of critical data is by far the most neglected duty of the average computer user, so I applaud your ‘vision’.

Your intended method, however, has some major holes in it While making a complete image backup of your hard drive or copying your data from your primary drive to this second drive is better than nothing, it does not provide a complete solution.

As a long-time provider of data recovery services, our lab has seen every scenario under the sun for a backup system and people in trouble all generally start with the same sentence; “I thought I had a good backup”.

There are two aspects of backing up data that often get overlooked The first is redundancy If you simply copy your data from time-to-time from your primary hard drive to your backup hard drive, you will be overwriting the previous backup.

This means that if you contract a virus, or files become corrupted and you don’t catch it before you overwrite the good files, than your backup is compromised Redundant backups allow for many things to go wrong over time, but still provide you with some sort of safety net.

With one backup set, you only have one safety net (not a good strategy, especially for businesses).

The other critical aspect is getting a copy of your data off the machine In the event of theft, fire, flood or massive failure, you can simply take the backup set to another machine and continue.

For businesses, especially, off-site backups are a must There are a number of methods of creating off-site backups that range from a simple Zip drive cartridge or CD-RW, to tape systems or using the Internet as a secure offsite backup.

The first step in determining the best mechanism for you is the amount of data that you need to backup You can get a sense of the required storage by checking the ‘Properties’ of any folders that contain the data that you want to backup.

For instance, if you right click on the ‘My Documents’ folder or icon, then choose ‘Properties’, the number of files and amount of space the data takes will be displayed (In some cases, you may have to click on the ‘General’ tab in order to see this info.)

Zip Drives from Iomega (www.iomega.com) have the ability to store up to 750MB and CD-R/RW disks can store up to 800MB each If your data exceeds these amounts, than you will have to use more than one cartridge or disk for your backup.

This eliminates automated procedures, which is not necessarily a bad thing Many of our data recovery clients ‘assumed’ that their backups were being performed because they were automated Unless someone is checking those automated backups, you will not know if there is a problem until it is too late.

If you have a large amount of data to backup the traditional, but expensive method of a tape drive is still the most comprehensive, however, the Internet has introduced a new method that has merit.

There are a plethora of companies that offer secure, web-based off-site backup systems If you only have a small amount of data, (30MB or less) you can use a free service like the Yahoo! Briefcase (http://briefcase.yahoo.com).

If you have large amounts of data and you want automation, you will need to go with a company that specializes in this type of service Hundreds of companies are available from a Google search with the phrase “offsite data backup service”.

Many of the companies offer free trials , but before you send your private data up to a strange web server, be sure to check the company out Make sure you know how long they have been offering the service, what steps they take to protect your data and how easy it is to get to someone in the support department.

There is no such thing as too many backups, so be sure to have a couple of different strategies in play to save your bacon or we will see you at our recovery labs!

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Author

Posted by Ken of Data Doctors on December 18, 2003