Backup Your Data


Everyone knows backing up your documents and files is something we should do on a regular basis, but quite often this task gets pushed to the bottom of the todo list. You might already have a system in place but would it fail if your office was in a fire? When was the last time you checked your backup’s actually work?

Over the coming weeks I will cover a range of topics on backup solutions to make your life easier. This weeks post is about the various types of backup solutions currently available. 

Still not convinced you need to read this post? Check out the story behind the picture above!

  1. Online
    Online backup is quickly becoming the most popular form of backup for individuals and small businesses. A backup program constantly monitors your document and files. Any changes to these files are copied, compressed, encrypted and then uploaded to the backup solution provider via your internet connection. 
    Example :
  2. Local and Online
    One of the draw backs to online backup is what happens when you need to recovery all your data quickly. Even with 8MB broadband connection it can take well over an hour to download one gigabyte of data. Some companies provide you with a small backup machine that takes a local backup and then uploads. If your data is lost you can restore it from the backup box. If your server and the backup box are destroyed the service provider will send an engineer on site with a replacement box with a copy of your data that was last updated.
    Example :
  3. Backup Media

    Tape technology has been around for over 50 years and is still widest used form of backup for businesses. Although the initial outlay can be expensive, tape drives still offers the quickest and cheapest way to backup large amounts of data. Currently the largest capacity tape is around 800 GB, but if you need something bigger, a tape library system can combine a series of tapes to provide a massive 80TB (80,000 GB’s) of data. Tape backup solution also provides an easy and cheap way to archive large amounts data for legal requirements that many businesses face. A typical tape solution will start from £300 ($600) and with tapes cost anything from £5 ($10) upwards depending on the capacity.

    CD/DVD media are generally quicker and cheaper than tape technology. Although the average business will backup well over 8.5 GB capacity of DVD media can currently handle. Yeah you can span data over multiple CD/DVD’s but as I will mention next week, Keep it simple. You might want to consider DVD media for monthly archiving for a companies that utilise an online backup system.

    HD-DVD and Blu-Ray media is another option that offers up to 50 GB of storage, but until the technology matures I wouldn’t consider this viable backup solution just yet. |

  4. Peer to Peer, online backup 
    Another online backup solution is Peer to Peer or P2P technology. Your data is encrypted, compressed, split into many bits and then uploaded to multiple locations all over the world. You can backup as much data as you’d like, but for every megabyte you want to save you need to provide another ten megabytes of space on your local PC for other people’s backups. In principle your data is backed up ten times!
    Academic Paper :
  5. Peer to Peer, local backup
    Instead of your data being distributed all over the internet the same concept can be applied by using spare hard drive space available on your desktop machines within your business network. 
    Example :
  6. Backup Buddies 
    Similar concept to P2P backup, but instead of backing up to multiple anonymous locations, you and a friend backup each others data over the internet. Again your data is secured through encryption, compressed and transferred via your broadband connection. You can have more than one backup destination which can be a local PC, another PC over the internet or you can use solution providers servers.
    Example :
  7. Portable Storage 
    USB hard drives and keys are one of the most common forms of backup for individuals and small businesses. Most operating systems come with some type of backup software that allows you to automate the process.
  8. Internal Hard Disk
    Exactly the same as the portable storage but the hard drive is inside the computer. Such a solution can often be cheaper, offer greater speeds and can configured for disk mirroring (RAID technology).
  9. Network Attached Disk (NAS)
    NAS drive are very similar to your USB drive with the added advantage that they don’t require USB connection to your machine. Instead, you connect them to your network and set them up as a mapped network drive on your machine. All users of the network (Linux, Mac, Windows) can place data on this storage space. This type of storage offers small businesses an excellent backup solution. Prices start from as little £100 ($200) for 200GB capacity NAS drive.
  10. Storage Area Network (SAN)
    Similar system to to NAS drives aimed at backup Terabytes (1000’s GB) of data for large enterprises.
  11. Shadow Copy
    Some operating systems such as Windows Vista allow you to enable a feature called Shadow Copying. The system takes snapshots of your files when changes are made to them. This allows you can roll back to pervious version of a documents and files without the need to implement the recovery process from your backup solution. This should be in addition to your backup solution, not the backup solution!
  12. Offline Synchronisation
    The operating system takes a complete copy of all the files available on your shared network drive. When your away from the office or your file server is unavailable you can continue to working on your documents and files. When your network drive becomes available again your files are synchronise back to the file server. Again like the Shadow Copying this should be in addition to your backup solution.
Following on from last weeks 12 Ways to backup your data, here are 15 tips to bear in mind when planning your backup strategy .

    UPDATE : A big big big thank you to Jason of The IT Managers Journal for suggesting the last five!

    1. Have one - Even if you’re backing up to floppy disks! At least make sure you have some type of backup.
    2. Keep it simple - Human is always the weakest link, they forget to change the tape, cancel backup jobs or turn off the computer getting backed up.
    3. Offsite - Store your backup’s off site whenever possible in case of fire or theft. Maybe ask a neighbouring business to store the backup media?
    4. Secure - Make sure the data is encrypted and physically safe. Is the solution protected from fire, water and natural disasters?
    5. Archiving - When you’ve just finished a large or important project, consider taking a snapshot/backup of your documents and files on to removable media.
    6. Unnecessary backups - Is the backup solution taking longer and longer to perform? Have you checked exactly what’s in the backup? Large media files such MP3’s, duplicated content from people emailing files rather than sharing them or old content that no-one every uses.
    7. Test the backup solution - Just as important as backing up, try recovering your data in a test run. Test this at least twice a year
    8. Local copy - Backup data online, make sure you perform local backup every so often, that way you don’t have wait to download all your company data.
    9. Think about the future - If you have the budget to buy more storage than you currently need. Trust me your more than likely to double your backup requirements within two years.
    10. Replacement Media - If using tape backup solution, you should clean the drive once a month with a cleaning tape and also replace tapes as advised by the manufacture guidelines.
    11. Regularity of backups - Depending on the importance of the data don’t just presume an over night backup solution is enough. Write a list of things that need backing up and order them in importance for the business.
    12. Hybrid Backup Solution - Okay I said keep it simply, but consider different backup solutions that would give you an extra layer of protection and giving you the biggest strengths from each.
    13. Application Backup - I touched on these last week but many applications and operating systems have additional backup/roll back solutions such as Offline Mode, System State, Version Control, Virtualisation and Shadow Copying.
    14. Not Just Data - Its very easy to over look operating systems, software, drivers, hardware and applications, just concentrating on company data.
    15. Again keep it simple! - They say, the less moving parts, the less likely it will go wrong. Same applies to backup solutions.
    16. Keep a Log! - If you’ve got lots of backups in lots of different places - a log can quickly help you find the right backup for the job. Let’s face it when you need to recover from a backup chances are you need to do it quickly!
    17. Copy me, Copy you - Can’t afford an online service? Agree to store your friends backup on your computer and their’s on yours.
    18. Get a memory stick - They cost peanuts these days and can store huge amounts of information, plus they are very quick too and often don’t need special software to make them work. Which goes back to keeping it simple.
    19. Get everyone involved - Backups shouldn’t be the domain of a single person (unfortunately though often they are!). Get as many people involved so they understand the importance of backing up data. Especially important at home with all those pictures, and music.
    20. Do It Now! Don’t leave it till tomorrow - if you have data that you just can’t live without - copy it somewhere safe - don’t leave it until tomorrow.
    21. Backup Tools - Mirror Backups and Microsoft SyncToy

      By Jamie | October 15, 2007

      hard drive head mirrored

      One of the best ways to backup your documents and files is to perform a mirror backup. As I have mentioned before in 20 Pointers for planning your backup strategy. The simplest backup strategy can often be the most effective one.

      A Mirror backup simply consists taking a complete copy of documents and files and storing them in alternative location. Unlike a traditional backup, the files are not compressed or encrypted. Restoring the backup is either a simple process copying files back or pointing users to the mirrored location. Mirror backups are a great addition to your primary backup solution and effective way to restoring files quickly.

      Windows Copying Issues

      To perform a Mirror backup you can simply copy files and directories yourself to backup location. You can automate the process by writing a batch file and schedule the task using Windows Scheduler. Although, Windows has a couple of issues when it comes to copying large amounts of files. Often Windows will halt the copy process if it encounters an error with just one file. Another bug bear is when a the process stops to ask the user if they would like to over write existing files. This is fine when copying small amounts of data, but a real pain when you leave Windows to copying large amounts of data that may take a number of hours.

      How to use Microsoft SyncToy

      Thankfully, Microsoft have produced a free tool called SyncToy, which can over come Windows downfalls. SyncToy allows you to perform a number of file copying operations:-

    22. Synchronize: New and updated files are copied both ways. Renames and deletes on either side are repeated on the other.
    23. Echo: New and updated files are copied left to right. Renames and deletes on the left are repeated on the right.
    24. Subscribe: Updated files on the right are copied to the left if the file name already exists on the left.
    25. Contribute: New and updated files are copied left to right. Renames on the left are repeated on the right. No deletions
    26. Combine: New and updated files are copied both ways. Nothing happens to renamed and deleted files.In this example, we are going to create a solution that would allow a user to automatically backup files to a location over the network simply by running a shortcut on the desktop.
34) Backup, Backup, Backup - Okay, we’ve mentioned this one already with online backups, but quite often this task gets pushed to the bottom of the to-do list. You may already have a system in place but when was the last time you checked that your backup’s actually work? Our advice is check it out and make sure it’s working as otherwise there will be tears when you really need it.
37) Windows Laptop Synchronisation -If you use a laptop out of the office, why not store your files on your office PC and then synchronise your laptop with your office PC whenever it connects to your office network. That way your files are safely backed up on the office PC and available for use on your laptop while out on the road. Any changes you make will synchronise back next time your in the office.