Sometimes it seems like the whole world is out to get our computers. Fire, flood, power surges, hard drive failures, viruses…the list is seemingly endless of the things that can wipe out our digital lives.
As scrapbookers, we are aware of the value of our memories in photographic form and mindful of the careful storage of our albums and printed photos. Most of us, however, are not as diligent as we should be about the preservation of our memories – or our business records – that are in digital form. World Backup Day is our annual reminder to take action to preserve and protect the records in our digital lives – before we learn the hard way that our safeguards are inadequate.
Think that your hard drive is protected from failure because your computer is new? The hard drive on my husband’s top of the line Mac Mini failed a few months ago. It was less than two years old. Hard drives can fail at any time.
Outside of equipment failure, many disasters can befall our data. A rampaging toddler could turn that morning cup of coffee into a coffee enema for your hard drive. On a larger scale, there’s the things that we don’t like to think about like house fires and other disasters. We buy insurance to protect against those events. But insurance can’t replace data, only the machine that it lived on. To insure the data, we need a different kind of insurance – a solid back up plan.
If you blog or own a business, it’s not just your personal computer that you need to think about. Is your website, or your company’s server, backed up? Nearly five years ago, the server that Scrapbook Update lived on at its former web host suffered a catastrophic failure and all data was lost. The site had to be rebuilt piecemeal from fragmented backup files and other archives because the back up service I paid the web host for was not actually creating back ups of the server.
Here’s the five questions you need to ask yourself about backing up your data:
How often am I backing up?
Depending on the usage of a machine or database will depend on how often it needs to be backed up to be adequately protected. A web surfing FarmVille player does not need their computer backed up nearly as often as a professional blogger and photography enthusiast. I back up my machines using a “live” protocol, but for many a weekly back up is sufficient if they don’t add much new content over that period of time.
Do I have an offsite back up of my data?
Having a back up of your data that lives in the same place as the original is a good first step. But if a major disaster like fire strikes, you’ll lose both the original and the back up. To really ensure the security of your data, you need a back up that is in another location.
To create my offsite data back up of my computer, I use Crashplan. This online service backs up changes to my computer (and any connected drives) in real time to a server farm in another state. I pay an annual subscription fee. Crashplan also protects me from accidentally deleting files and gives me the ability to log in and retrieve a file if I am away from my computer.
Do I need data that is on the protected device to access the device’s back up?
If you are using a back up service, you’ll need a username and password to access the device’s back up data. Storing those credentials only in a password manager or other library that lives on the the device that you want to restore could leave you in vicious circle of needing the back up to get the password that enables you to get the back up.
In short, make sure passwords to access your data back ups (and other necessary items like software keys) are stored somewhere besides the devices themselves!
Do I have easy access to the data I need for emergency recovery?
Having an offsite back-up is great for safeguarding your data in case of a disaster. But in case of a computer equipment failure, retrieving a large amount of data from an offsite server via download to get a new computer or hard drive up and running could take days (or longer). That’s why – especially if the data involves your business or work productivity – it is important to have local access to a back-up that will get you restored quickly to functionality!
Do I have a way of verifying my back up data?
It’s important to not only be backing up data, but verifying that your back up is valid. When I contracted with my previous web host to provide back up service for Scrapbook Update, the back up process was invisible to me. It was supposedly happening in the background and I had no way of verifying this or checking that everything I wanted backed up was included. This turned into a nightmare when the back up was actually needed – and it turned out to not exist.
Now I use WordPress’s own Vaultpress subscription back up service to back up all of my websites. It works in real time to back up changes to my sites, and I can go onto my account on the Vaultpress server and see the files that have been backed up (and even retrieve one that I need to use if something gets corrupted during an upgrade gone bad).
In the era of digital photography, your data is your life. For businesses, this is even more true as virtually every aspect of our business is tied to our computer data in some way: marketing, sales, production. Are you safeguarding your data as well as you should?