The best backup policy

To make sure you never lose essential data, consider implementing a 3-2-1 back-up approach:

  • You need to have 3 copies of your data. That means that next to the original file, there must be two backup copies.
  • The original files and one set of backup data can reside at the same location but they must be stored on 2 different media. This means you should not store a backup of a disk on that same drive. If the drive dies, you lose both the original files and the backup!
  • You must have 1 offsite set of backup data. This ensures that if a fire, theft or malware leads to the loss of the onsite data, there is still a spare copy at the other location. Many prefer a cloud-based backup solution, like Carbonite, Crashplan, or Backblaze. With these backup solutions, the data are stored in a datacenter, possibly in another state, country, or continent. You can however also store hard drives with company data at home or keep a copy of data at your parent’s place.

There are a few other recommendations for ensuring your data are safe:

  • The two sets of backup data are ideally created using 2 different backup solutions or mechanisms. This ensures that if one application fails or stops working, the second backup mechanism still guarantees you have a full set of data.
  • From time to time you need to check your backups by restoring a few files from the backup. That way you know the backup is not corrupted and you remain familiar with the proper procedure to restore files.
  • Ideally one of the backups also contains versioning data, meaning that it is not just the current version of files that gets backed up, but also older versions. If a file accidentally gets corrupted (by bitrot, a software bug, or another accident), your backups will also contain a corrupted file. That makes those backup worthless as well. If you still have an older version of that file or an older backup, that at least gives you a chance to recover the data.
  • At least one of the backup solutions must be fully automatic. Manually backing up data is perfectly possible but it is boring and can easily be delayed. Disaster will strike after backing up got postponed for months (or years) and the only backup you still have is completely outdated.
  • Different types of data may mandate a different backup strategy. Essential data must be backed up in real-time or every night. Less critical data can be safeguarded every weekend. Many companies create a mirror of the startup disk of computers once or twice per year, just to avoid the hassle of having to reinstall the operating system and all the applications if a computer dies.

What to back up

There is no need to backup all the data on all the systems. There are thousands of files, such as temporary files, that are irrelevant. It pays to be selective in the files that get backed up.

  • Backups become easier to manage if all the important data used on all systems are centralized. Backing up one single data volume on a server or NAS system is easier than configuring a backup application on multiple systems. Before thinking about a backup strategy, first make sure there is an overall storage policy.
  • It is easy to overlook configuration data but often people spend a lot of time configuring InDesign preferences or creating Photoshop actions.

My own personal backup strategy

At home all essential data are centralized on an SSD on our main desktop PC. Windows 10 File History is used to back up those data, including older revisions of files,  to an internal hard disk. Synology Cloud Station Backup is used to create a second backup on a NAS box in the network. From time to time I manually copy the data to one of two external USB drives. During family visits, the drive with the most recent copy moves to a closet at my parent’s home.


4 thoughts on “The best backup policy

  1. My concern is trusting a third party with extremely sensitive data. I posit that you should personally own the offsite backup. I’m sure Carbonite et al are fine alternatives but that doesn’t mitigate the Evil Admin problem, or the fact they’re big juicy targets for hackers. Some fully encrypted tunnel to an NAS at your mom’s house sounds better to me.

  2. Despite being a very good Hardware IT guy for many years, I had trouble with getting backup solutions figured out for much of that time, at least in a way that wasn’t too much time or trouble.
    then one day a poorgrammar friend of mine introduced me to some of his daily tools. the solution after that for me has been to setup storage somewhere else, and use software [such as Beyond Compare] to merge files from my home & portable devices. Nowadays with internet access available almost everywhere, there are off the shelf products for setting up real time OTN file merging or mirroring… come to think of it, Google would be a great example… oops, am i replying to an ancient post and this is all old news?? 🙂

  3. I have found that in backup of multiple different or of same files of media it pays off in the long run to back these files up on at least 3 separate individual external hard drives all being of the same equality whether it be the smallest to the largest hard drive ex 1tb – 8tb whatever case to suit your needs and then 10 chances to one you definitely will always have backup in case your computer happens to crash or your drive system you may use comes taboo for whatever reason. Now in in the event above all it can or could be wise to have in the event of quick re transfer from backup to your new or repaired computer have what I call all I have all on 2 single external hard drives so as to have everything you’ve got. To explain everything in full detail if you like me have media in one type and media of another type it is best to follow the backup format as explained above as an example first type of media on 3 separate external hard drives as such and so on. SO if you have 3-4 different types of media then all it takes is one drive of each to transfer to you biggest drive for all and that way you will definitely retain all your backup always. Now in the event one of you’re backup discs happen to fail for whatever reason you will still have all of your media backed up on others in this event replace the crashed drive with a new one and then you are 99% guaranteed you will always retain all your media of whatever.

  4. Triple redundancy has been recommended for decades for just about everything that is mission critical. It’s earliest computer related use was to parallel process three independent computers with the same data and have a fourth computer compare the results, flag the failed computer if one of the results does not match, and present the matched data as confirmed output.

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