Search This Blog

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Disaster Recovery

Today's post is work-related.
The topic is disaster recovery.
I'd like to remind everyone that hardware can be replaced and software can be reinstalled but YOUR WORK cannot be recovered as easily.

I know many people and many of them have learned the lesson about backing up their data the hard way. In fact, I don't KNOW of anyone who has learned this lesson without learning it the hard way at least once.

It is VERY important to have a backup strategy for your data.
The easiest rule for this is to have 3 copies at all times: your working copy, your local backup and a remote backup.

Why three copies?

That's a simple question to answer.

The first copy is obvious: it's your working copy. This is the copy you work with on a regular basis. It's the one that is on the internal hard disk of your workstation. It's the copy you think of when you think of a file.

The second copy is also obvious: it's your backup. If you suffer a hard disk crash on your workstation you get the backup copy from the backup drive. Simple.

So why do you need a third copy? Because that's the true way to prevent data loss from an actual disaster.

Here's an example:
If you only have TWO copies (working and local backup) of a file what happens to your data in the event of a flood or a fire? What happens if a thief steals both the workstation AND external drive? What happens if you have a lightning strike that completely fries the electronics in both the workstation and the external backup?

That's why you need a THIRD backup copy.

When I relate this process to my users I am often asked "how can I do this? I don't know anything about computers!"

There are a variety of answers, but they vary based on what type of equipment and operating system you have.


One easy solution for remote backup, regardless of your operating system or hardware is an online service known as Carbonite. This is a paid service ($55 / year) that backs up your entire computer. I have not yet had the need to try this service, but I have heard nothing but good things about it from anyone I have asked.

Another easy, online solution is DropBox. DropBox is another paid service, but it allows for free use for up to 2GBs of data. I do use this service. I backup the 2 most important GBs of my data through DropBox. The extra bonus of this: I can read anything in my DropBox folder on my mobile phone using the appropriate DropBox client.

Either of the above options will allow you to quickly, easily, inexpensively and, best of all, automatically backup your data to an offsite location without any worries. If you experience a fire, lightning strike, flood, theft, meteor strike, etc you can feel relieved that you haven't lost your data.

Onto the local backup. The most universal way to do this is to buy an external drive and manually copy of all the important files once a day. This method works on every version of MS Windows, Linux and Macintosh OS (all the way back, in all three cases). This, however, is slow, cumbersome and it has one HUGE potential fail point: you. This method relies on your personal vigilance and dedication to protecting your data. This method usually leads to failure or out-dated backups when you need them most.

There are plenty of tools that will allow you to have automatic backup systems. If I were prepared to discuss any one Windows or Linux I would, but my knowledge of them is a couple of years old so I am certain there are better (and more) tools available than anything I could talk about.
I can, however, discuss the best way to do this if you have OSX (10.5+): Time Machine. Time Machine is a program that is part of OSX. It is included with the OS for free. It allows you to attach an external drive that will just backup your entire disk (by default: you can tweak it if you like) to the external. Time Machine does what is called an iterative backup. This process is VERY efficient with storage space and data transfer bandwidth. It works by taking a FULL backup the very first time you run it then it only backs up the changes from that point forward. You are able to slide backward through the backups that have been made and access each and every change along the way. It's a fantastic tool that will save you from accidental deletions, terrible edits, and full disaster. You can even rebuild a system from it in the event of a hard disk failure.
A side note on Time Machine for the technically inclined: it seems to work very much like using RSync in Linux. The browsing mechanism for the files is very much like dirvsh.

So, this entire post bring me to ask: does anyone know of a good, easy, automatic way to backup this blog?

No comments:

Post a Comment