Having a robust data backup strategy is one of the most important maintenance tasks that any computer user can undertake.
Many people feel or claim that they have adequate data backup plans in place, but most are probably making one or two common, but not quite so obvious errors, that could be compromising their data integrity.
- Transferring instead of backing up – by definition a data backup is a second (or third or fourth etc) copy of your data that is available to you should the original become unavailable. Many people buy a USB drive, and copy all their data over to it. They then delete the original from their PC, and believe they are safe because they have ‘Backed Up’. This is not the case, they still only have one copy of the data, so any problem with their ‘backup’ drive still results in data loss.
- Backups physically located with originals – a backup drive left on top of PC is vulnerable to the same physical threats as the original data. If the PC is stolen or there’s a fire or flood, then the backup is likely to be stolen or damaged as well, again causing total data loss. A data backup should be physically located away from the original, preferably another building or using an on-line service. If that’s not feasible, at least in another part of the building.
- Having only one backup – you really need to have a minimum of two backups that you use in rotation, this guards against something going wrong during a backup. We would recommend three copies used in rotation, something known as the father, son, grandson principle.
- Using the same type of media for all your backups – if you have all your backups on magnetic media for instance, severe electrical interference could corrupt both your data and your backup, so try to go for a mixture of magnetic, optical, tape, or offsite to mitigate against this.
If you really want to know that your data backup strategy is as robust as it could be, give it the ‘3 2 1’ test, do you have:
- Three different copies.
- Two different media.
- One stored offsite or away from the original data?
If you can pass this test then you are very well protected against the day that your hard drive fails (and it will) with all your valuable data on it, and remember these two maxims:
- You’ve got to back it up to get it back.
- Data you only have one copy of is data you don’t care about.