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Chances are that if you've worked with computers long enough, you've had the unfortunate experience of losing all of your data due to some sort of malfunction or failure.
It's a painful experience that can be quite costly and for many, it serves as the impetus to develop a data backup strategy.
Since more and more of our most valuable personal and business data is being stored on our computers, having a data backup strategy in place is a good idea for everybody - not just businesspeople.
When plotting out your data backup strategy, the most important consideration is to determine the value of your data.
Ask yourself: if I lost everything on my computer tomorrow, what would the economic impact be?
This is perhaps a more difficult question to answer than it seems. Consider:
- How much money would you have to spend replacing (or trying to retrieve) the lost data?
- How much of your data could be re-acquired easily?
- How much time would you have to invest in this process?
- How would the loss damage my business?
- What possible liabilities would you face?
Evaluating Your Options
Once you've answered the above questions, you'll have a better idea as to how important backing up your data is and as to how thorough your backup strategy needs to be.
Obviously, if you store a lot of important, valuable data and it relates to your business, you will probably want to have a more robust backup strategy than if you only store personal, less-important data.
In general, there are two types of backups:
- Local backup.
- Remote backup.
A local backup solution usually entails purchasing hardware and software that you use locally to back up your data whereas remote backup usually entails using some sort of service that enables you to transfer your data to a remote location where your data is stored.
Weighing the Advantages and Disadvantages
Local backup offers some key advantages:
- It's typically easier and quicker to back up data to a local backup device. Obviously, if you need to back up all the data on your computer's hard, transferring it to an external hard drive, for instance, is probably faster than transferring it over the internet to a third-party.
- Having control over the hardware your backup is stored on is reassuring and, depending on your particular circumstances, may be more secure. After all, if you have sensitive data, transferring it over the internet to a third party may be risky even if you take sensible precautions.
- Local backups aren't always reliable. If you store your backups on an external hard drive and your home or office burns down, chances are that your external hard drive is going to meet the same fate as your computer.
- It's typically not cost-effective to build a local backup "setup" that is as redundant and reliable as a third-party backup service.
- Reputable online backup services are usually cost-effective and don't require you to invest in hardware.
- By transferring your data to a service that stores it in a different geographic location, you eliminate the worry that if something physically happens at your location, your backup device will be lost or damaged.
And their disadvantages:
- Depending on the amount of data you need to back up, the chosen frequency of your backups and the speed of your internet connection, transferring your data over the internet may not be very efficient.
- You have to put your trust in a third party. While there are many reputable online backup services, there is never any guarantee that your online backup service won't have a security breach, lose your data or go out of business.
In future posts, I'll look at some of the products and services that can be used for both backup strategies.
In the meantime, no matter what strategy you decide on, remember the following:
- How regularly you back up is up to you and should be based on the consideration of how valuable your data is to you and how frequently it is updated. For most, it's usually better to back up more frequently than less frequently and most backup software (for both local and remote backups) offers backup scheduling. Use it!
- Consider versioning control. Having access to backups of "old" data may be useful if your data is updated on a regular basis so be sure to consider whether you need to have a setup that supports maintaining multiple backups so that you can retrieve or revert to older data if needed.
- Make sure your backups are "clean." Use a quality anti-virus software and if possible, make sure the files you back up have been scanned before they're backed up.
- A backup strategy is only good if it's used. If you don't actually implement it and adhere to regular backups, the strategy alone does you no good.