Data backup. What it is and why you should be doing it.
Everyone who uses a computer knows that keeping a backup of your data is one of the most important things to do in case disaster strikes. However, doing a regular scheduled backup is still the most ignored part of computer maintenance. All too often we see clients who have fallen victim to data loss and when asked if they have a backup the answer is usually synonymous to “I just haven’t gotten around to it”, “I never thought it would happen to me” or “I’m not sure how”. In this article we will look at what a proper backup is, why you should be doing it and how it can save you a lot stress, time and money. I will also try to clear up some of the misconceptions surrounding backups, so let’s begin.
What is a backup?
Simply put, a backup is a second copy of your data that is stored in a different location than the original data. In the unfortunate event that the original data is lost, it can easily be recovered from the backup and you endure minimal down time.
Why should I be doing a backup?
For the same reason you have insurance on your home and on your car. Backups are like an insurance policy that you hope you will never need but will be sure glad you have in case of data loss. The digital age is a great thing and allows us to keep literally tens of thousands of files and records stored in a small convenient location without taking up a room full of space filled with boxes of paper files. However, one advantage that paper has over digital is that they must physically be destroyed to lose the information, this is not the case with digital files. With digital files on your computer they can be lost at any time, anywhere and in most cases without warning.
What data should I back up?
Everything… In all seriousness the data that you should back up really depends on what is important to you. For some it may just be pictures and documents, for others a backup of your entire system would be advisable.
What is the best type of backup?
File backups, incremental, secured, cloud, system images, it can get confusing but it doesn’t have to be. Depending on your needs any of these options are good. With todays technology a complete system backup is in my opinion the best option. With a complete system backup not only can you restore files if they are lost but you can even restore your entire system and all its settings, programs and preferences in minimal time. For example, if your hard drive crashes or even if you replace the computer, you can restore from a system image and have everything right where you left it in no time. Best of all, both Windows and Mac OSX have this ability built in.
If my hard drive crashes, can’t I just have the data recovered?
Yes and no. Many do not realize that data recovery can be a very in-depth process that involves a dust free lab, many hours of labor and no guarantees that you will get all of your data back. It can be very expensive with prices ranging from $90 all the way up to $2000 depending on the level of damage to your hard drive. From an economic standpoint it hardly seems worth it when you could have made a backup for free.
I have moved my files to an external drive, they are now backed up right?
No, if you simply moved them to another location then you do not have a backup. Remember that a backup is a second copy of your files. You must have 2 copies of the same files in different locations to have a backup.
How often should I run a backup?
Every day would be ideal, that way your backup will always be up to date. But in some cases, every week is fine too. A home user who has pictures, music and some documents would usually be fine with a weekly backup. A business with information that changes daily would want a daily scheduled backup.
I have been using computers for years and have never had a problem.
This can be the case for many people and often leads to the idea that a backup is not necessary, but remember that a backup is an insurance policy that you hope you never need. Keeping important documents on your computer without having a backup is like leaving the house with the stove on. Sure, there is a good chance nothing will happen, but there is a good chance your house will burn down, why leave it to chance? All things fail sooner or later and computers are no exception. It’s not a matter of if, but when. It could be 5 years or it could be a month. Consider the factors that can contribute to data loss that are completely out of your control such as hard drive failure, ransomware, viruses, accidental damage, power surges, theft, fire, the list goes on. Many people think that data loss won’t happen to them until it does.
Saving stress, time and money.
Data loss can be stressful. Losing your client information, tax records, or personal documents is not something anyone enjoys. Reinstalling your programs, setting up your favorites and rebuilding your address book can take hours if not days. For businesses, time is money and re-entering data from paper records can be quite costly. Having a proper backup ensures that you can be back up and running in minimal time at minimal cost.
I don’t have the time or know how to set up a backup, is it worth it to pay someone else to do it?
Yes. Considering the cost for professional data recovery and the down time and stress that goes with data loss, paying a technician to set it all up for you is well worth the investment. Data loss without a backup can cost hundreds or even thousands of dollars as well as hours in time. When you compare that to the cost of hiring a technician to set it up for you and maintain it, the savings are still greater than the costs.
I have set up a backup, but I am not sure it’s working.
This happens more often than you would think. We had a client who was proactive about doing backups which is good, the problem was that the backup hadn’t been working for quite some time so when their hard drive crashed, the only data we could recover was already a year out of date and for a business, that is bad news. This is why even if you have set up a backup, if you have any doubts about its reliability you should have someone make sure that it is working as intended.
Hopefully I have been able to shed some light on the importance of maintaining a backup and dispelled some of the misconceptions surrounding backups and data loss. Data backups are key to effective disaster recovery and absolutely everyone who has important files they don’t want to lose should have one. If you have any questions or concerns that you feel I did not cover in this article, or if you would like to learn more about the backup services that we offer and how we can save you time and money, please do not hesitate to contact us. If you feel that this article would be beneficial to others, please feel free to share it.