Today’s most common method of data storage is some form of computer file on some type of storage device. Storage devices range from your computer’s hard drive to a nebulous-sounding storage system called the cloud. A backup is a copy of your computer and all of the data stored on it, that is kept separate from your computer on another type of device altogether, so that in the event of a catastrophic failure of your computer, you will have the means to restore all of your data. We are all encouraged to back up all of our files on some kind of storage device, and most of us make some sort of attempt at doing so.
How Secure is that Data ?
The problem is that we don’t seem to be very aware of how fragile our storage systems are, and how easy it would be to lose valuable data, files, pictures, video, and important information. When you consider that every computer – no matter how good it is – will eventually cease to function, then you will understand how vulnerable your information really is. Think about some of the things that could cause your computer to die, and how difficult it might be for you to retrieve your data if your computer sustained water damage, fire damage, or even a big power surge. Then there is the danger of getting a computer virus, or being hacked, or in some way allowing a scammer access to your computer. In any event, it is much easier to lose your data than most of us think it is, and we should be more conscientious about creating reliable backups and making sure that the things that matter to us don’t disappear because we were careless.
Keeping data online and in computer memories is easy, quick, and it seems reliable and possibly even foolproof. The reality is a lot different. The fact that we keep so much of our information in places that are vulnerable to everything from computer viruses through water damage to the simple passage of time, means that an unknown amount of data has already been lost through poor storage choices, and much more will be lost in the future for the same reasons. It is estimated that two thirds of people have lost data due to the fact that they failed to make sure that data was backed up.
Keep it Up to Date
Creating a schedule that tells your computer to create a regular backup file to back up the data on your computer is a relatively simple process, and should be done immediately after you get a new computer. If you schedule regular backups, then your data will be protected in the event that you suffer a catastrophic failure of your system. This is your first line of defense when it comes to protecting your data.
Use Offline Storage
As a second line of defense, you can choose to back up your data using CDs, flash drives, external hard drives, or a storage system that uses the internet, but whichever system you use, you must be prepared, always, to transfer all of the data on whatever storage system you use onto a new storage device each time that a new storage technology becomes the most commonly used one. You must always be cognizant of the fact that as new technologies come out, the old ones become obsolete and cease to be useful, due to the simple fact that the ability to read those devices may have disappeared from common usage. How many people do you know who were left with a stack of useless 3.5 inch floppies when CDs became the main storage device, and computer companies stopped installing the drives for the floppies? If you want to keep your data stored safely, you will need to move with the times.
Value of Flash Drives
Flash drives are a compact and convenient way to store data, and using them allows you to transfer a large amount of data onto a very small device. Unfortunately, the very size of that device can work against you, since they are so small that they are distressingly easy to lose. If you choose to use flash drives to store data on, you should clearly label each drive, create a storage system for the devices, and use that storage system religiously, since if you allow yourself to get in the habit of not putting the flash drives into the storage box, then you are almost guaranteed to lose at least one of them. You should also ensure that your storage box discourages moisture, since rusted components will render your flash drives unfit for use.
External Drives in case of a Fire
External hard drives can be a very useful tool – especially since they can hold such a huge amount of data. You can easily create a backup of your computer’s hard drive by using the control panel to store a system backup on an external hard drive. A full backup for the average desktop or laptop computer requires a lot of memory, so make sure that the external hard drive you purchase has enough storage capacity to accommodate the full contents of whatever device you are trying to create a backup for.
Another type of backup is called system imaging. This is used when you want to create an image of a complete system. When you take this image and store it, you can then go back and restore your system to this exact configuration in the event of a data loss. This type of imaging works best for restoring several linked computers all to the same configuration, rather than just restoring one computer or other device.
Think about Where to Store it
Whichever storage device you choose to use, you must also decide where to store the backup of your system, unless you have chosen to use the cloud for storage. You may not want to store it in your house, because fire or flood would then destroy the backup as well as your computer. Some people store their backup devices in a safety deposit box in a bank vault. This is a safe place to store them, since bank vaults are designed to withstand high temperatures, are watertight, and are generally considered the safest place to store valuables.
Storage devices can be expensive, so it is important that you evaluate just how important your data is to you. It may not make financial sense to you to spend hundreds of dollars to create a backup of a computer that contains very little data that you wish to save. You may want to consider a less expensive option. On the other hand, if you need business or corporate data backups, you will want to look for the best possible option and the cost is less of a consideration.
Business Data needs to be done right
Corporate or business data should be backed up, and then the backups should be backed up. There has been more than one case where all of the sales and transaction records for a business that were stored in a cloud-based system were entirely – and permanently – erased by a technician who was trying to repair a malfunctioning server. It pays to understand the actual mechanics of the storage system you choose to use, and more than one company has made the mistake of believing that the cloud-based storage system really stored their data in some type of cloud, instead of just on somebody else’s computer. A cloud-based system stores data on banks of computers owned and maintained by a company somewhere in the world. This means that those servers are vulnerable to the same things your computer system is, such as fire, flood, theft, hackers, bankruptcy, wear and tear, and simple mismanagement. This is why you should always keep a second backup system in place – and it should be on a different medium than your primary data backup system. If your primary system is the cloud, then choose an external hard drive with huge data capacity to be your second line of defense. If these hard drives are stored off site, then if a disaster occurs at your business, you will have at least two ways to retrieve your company records.
Who Owns the Data Backup ?
Another consideration when it comes to data backup is trust. Corporate data is often sensitive information that needs to be protected, and therefore only a few trusted individuals should be given full access to the information and/or the storage system for that information. Identification authentication methods should always be used, and it is a good idea to ensure that no one person can access the information alone if it is really necessary to keep the information private. There should be a clear chain of command in the collection and storage of your data, and if your company uses a cloud-based system, then you need to verify the security procedures observed by the storage company. It won’t help you much to carefully protect the information within your company only to store the data on servers that can be accessed by almost anyone.
The process of backing up data is more complicated than it appears at first glance, and requires careful thought and planning.