Backup, Backup and Backup Again!

Data is integral to any business. Without it, we would have no records of who our customers are, how we are performing, what opportunities are we working towards and more. Emails flying around, holding critical information on a new contract, sitting in a mailbox which resides on a dusty old server.

Then BANG! Server explodes (OK, maybe that’s a bit Hollywood) or decides to stop Fireball - Disaster n- No Backup!working (much more likely). Hard drives get corrupt and won’t allow data to be accessed. Or, more likely, someone deletes something and it’s gone…..

We’ve all been in this position before, I’m sure. In fact, I’ve witnessed data disappearing before my eyes on an old Microsoft NT4 server (I still wake up in the night, sweating and cursing that old server).

So, why do so many of us avoid backing it up?

The main excuses I hear are Time (not enough of it), Knowledge (don’t know how to) and Invincibility (it won’t happen to me).

Time – Scheduled backups are your friend + reports can be sent to your Inbox to alert you to any issues.
Knowledge – Most operating systems have built-in Scheduled Backup software that are point and click based (Click, Next, Click, Next – Repeat).
Invincibility – This usually only changes once you have actually lost data. A Superheroes cape will not protect you!

If you are lucky enough to work somewhere with an IT team (some might say unlucky, but I believe the industry is more customer focussed than it used to be) then all the above will initially be their responsibility. I say initially, as some IT teams may give you the tools and then empower you to follow a routine. So long as there is some sort of Disaster Recovery plan in place, you can feel warm and safe.

For those working alone or without IT support, the following tips might help you avoid a disaster (and sleep at night).

First thing you’ll want to decide is where to back your data up to. You want it off of the system you are backing up, otherwise there isn’t much point (unless you only want a mirror image of your data for cover against accidental deletion, but seems pretty pointless when a full backup off of your system will do the same and more).

Computer NetworkRemovable Hard Drive – Plug it in and point backup software to it. Remove when complete and store somewhere safe. You must get into a routine of re-attaching the drive and performing a backup – maybe book in a re-occurring calendar appointment to alert you to perform a backup at least once a week.

Cloud Storage – There are a lot of Cloud Storage companies now, with a few offering free space (up to a limit and with some restrictions).
Google Drive is one that I use for my own data backup. You get 15GB free and have a Google Drive Utility option to backup data from your own PC/Mac.
Dropbox is another Cloud Storage system that enables you to use your PC/Mac folder structure to move data into a Dropbox folder that then syncs into the Cloud. 2GB freee for Personal account (you can get more free space by referring people).
The final product I’m listing is Microsoft’s OneDrive. Much the same as above, with 15GB free and options to link into your own PC/Mac.

All 3 products have a Business Plan as well, which will equate to more data, options and support. Can also be accessed on any device using apps or login remotely, so very handy if on the move.

So, the 3 Cloud options above can take away a lot of the headaches associated with backing up data. However, some people prefer to have their data in their own hands and under their own control. This could be down to data-handling issues (what country is my data in and what laws does it now fall under) or just because they want to keep security in their own hands.

Windows 7, 8.1 + 10 Built-in Backup (also available for XP + Vista but concentrating on current systems).
Windows 7 – Backup and restore guide (using removable drive as data holding vessel)

Windows 8.1 + Windows 10 – Both use a system called File History, which has a predefined set of items that will be backed up automatically: all your libraries (both default libraries and custom libraries you created), the Desktop, your Contacts, Internet Explorer and Edge favourites and, finally, OneDrive. The idea is that it allows you to retrieve earlier versions of a particular file. This means that even if you make changes to a document or any other type of file, you can always revert in time and rollback to any of its earlier versions.

Finally, I’ll add a product that I use for WSX Enterprise. Veeam is excellent in a virtualised environment (Wikipedia can describe it better than me here). Veeam allows all the server data (not just documents but an actual image) to be backed up seamlessly and restored without delay.

This is probably not going to be of value to you and your PC/Mac.

However, they also do a FREE Veeam Endpoint Backup tool here (you’ll need to register). It’s a great tool to create a full image of your system that can then be stored away, waiting for the day when your hard drive does fail (it probably will happen…sorry). The more up to date you keep the image, the more robust your Disaster Recovery plan will be, allowing you to pick the individual files to restore or the entire system!

So, in conclusion, if I was working for myself, or in a small team, and had no Disaster Recovery plan in place I would start with the following:

  • External Storage Device using Windows Built-In Backup – Scheduled weekly.
  • Free Cloud Based system – Daily backups.
  • Veeam Image Tool – Run once a month and store away.

You can never have too many backups, so long as they are managed and labelled. If you are unsure on how often to backup, ask yourself a question about the work you have just completed:

“Will I cry if I lose this work?” I bet the answer will nearly always be Yes, so just back it up!