We all know we should backup our data but we don’t always do it correctly, read this to make sure you have got it right.
Reasons to Backup
- you delete something you shouldn’t have
- the hard drive or computer suffers a mechanical breakdown
- the computer is stolen or lost
- you are infected with a virus
- a catastrophic event occurs – flooding, fire, a plane lands on the building, you throw the computer in a pond
- an external hard drive
- digital tape
- USB stick
- DVD/CD Burner
- the cloud
Types of Backup
- A full backup copies everything including system files
- An incremental backup copies only what has changed since the last backup
- A copy is not a backup
- Backups are stored off-site and on-site
Choosing a strategy that fits with your computer use is vital to ensuring you can recover from any digital disaster. Decide how often you need to backup; it could be hourly, daily, weekly, monthly or any combination of these, decide how long you need to keep these backups for. If the data is business related or personally precious you might need to keep off-site backups on a USB stick under your pillow, maybe even print out your photos on proper Kodak paper. Daguerreotypes from 1839 can still be seen by our 2020 eyes, monographic representations printed on paper, 180 years go.
How to Perform a Backup
Windows 7 and MacOS X include clever backup software installed and ready to go. Both are easy to use and will guide you through the process of configuring the backup schedule and choosing what to backup.
Copy is not the same as Backup
When you use backup software, the file structure is managed for you. The “properties” of the files and folders are also backed up and things like file ownership and creation dates are preserved. This makes restoring the files much easier because you can search by date and be sure you get the right version of the file you want to restore.
If you merely copy your files and folders to an external device you should always consider this as a temporary copy and not a backup. Otherwise, you will end up with copies of copies on your external disks which will fill up with duplicated data. When you backup these external drives using Apple’s Time Machine it is smart enough to realise you have duplicates and won’t necessarily back them up again; so you can have a backup drive smaller than your main drives (this is a sign of poor user file management and was a common pitfall in the early days of gigabyte storage). Its always a good idea to make a quick backup or copy of your files before you apply an update or install some new software on your computer, but make sure you delete the copy after the installation or update is complete. Never consider a copy as a backup.
How to Backup Really Big Files
Graphic designers, video editors, music producers and others who create large amounts of data need a different backup strategy to the software that comes with Windows and Mac operating systems. The archivists solution is to use a tape backup system which can store and quickly retrieve many terabytes, cataloging petabytes as quickly as possible. Projects are often created on one or more external solid state or fusion drives configured in a managed array, archived to project disks. Even so, all of this disk data must be backed up to tape otherwise there is no backup, just online storage. Storage is then restored and rotated on monthly and annual rotations, sometimes lasting decades.
Backup the Cloud
Are you a cloud user? Is your business “in the cloud”? Do you backup all of your data from the cloud? If your cloud account is hacked or accidentally deleted then you’ll need a backup. Have you got one?
Prove Your Backup
There is no point in backing up unless you have proven that it works. You should regularly try to restore a random file from your backup just to make sure everything works fine. Restoring a high quality picture file from 1998 might look digitised and pixelated on a laptop with a screen resolution of unthinkable proportions 22 years ago. All preserved digital data needs to be regularly updated in today’s interpretation, high or low resolution, compressed or adjusted. Print it with ink, then rescan.
When you buy a new computer make sure you consider how you will back it up. Getting the biggest internal drive you can afford in your shiny new Mac might mean you have to expand your backup devices too.