What is Your Back Up Plan?

235px-Floppy_disk_2009_G1What are you doing to back up your data? CD/DVDs, external hard drive, cloud backup, or nothing at all? We have all heard stories about someone losing their data because of fire, flood, or computer failure. Generally it’s not that business proposal or the letter to Aunt Maude they were working on that they get upset about, but the loss of their music collection or family pictures.

I have to admit over the years I really didn’t have much of a backup solution. Every few years I would upgrade to a newer and faster PC and transfer over my existing data. I would keep the old computer around or at least keep the hard drive in case I needed the data for some reason. Later, when small portable USB drives entered the market, I bought a few and started backing up stuff that I thought was important. My plan was to get a few of these and switch them out in a safe deposit box. That only happened once.

About a year ago the power supply in my Windows PC died and that was a wake-up call for me. I tried to find a power supply for the PC and found out it was a special order part and I would have to wait. I was concerned about my data so I bought a cheap Vista PC and used that to access the data off my old drive. I ended up copying the user data to a new folder on my new hard drive so I at least had it backed up and could start configuring my new system. At the same time I started my switch over to my iMac for my daily computing.

To make a long story short, I have most of my data on both the PC and Mac and all my new photos on the Mac. I now have a couple ways that I back up. First, I use Time Machine on my iMac which keeps me current to a local drive. I don’t have anything on the PC to automate the process, but I do have a few drives that I copy my user data too. But my main backup solution is in the cloud.

I use an off-site cloud storage solution for backing up my data. I use BackBlaze, but there are a few others that do the same thing (SugarSync, Mozy, etc.).  You download a small application (Windows or Mac) and configure the program. It then runs in the background when you computer is idle to back up your data. These programs don’t back up your entire system, just your user data. Backblaze claims it’s fast but it took over a month to back up my 225 GB of data. But once you’re backed up, it backs up any new files that it sees., and that is very fast. There’s a control panel that shows the back up status and it generally shows that I’m backed up unless I dumped a whole bunch of RAW photos to Aperture for sorting and editing.

These programs cost around $50/year (per computer) and most allow unlimited backups. BackBlaze keeps a copy of older files so if you deleted something you shouldn’t have, you can restore it to your system. You can search the backed up files and mark them for restore. They either email you a zipped file, or in case of a large scale restore, you can request the data on DVDs or a hard drive (for additional cost). The good news about these programs is you can try them free for 30 days to see how you like it.

I debated about using a cloud backup, but BackBlaze looks very secure and $50/year is pretty cheap insurance to have access to my data in case something happens. As added benefit, I can also log on to my BackBlaze account from anywhere and download any backed up file that I may need.

Cloud backup should not be your final backup solution — you should still do local backups as well as a disk image backup that can completely restore your computer to a working state. The real key to a back up solution is doing it on a regular basis. That can be backing up weekly to external drives, automatically to the cloud, or both. In the end your data should be in multiple places and not only on your computer or in your house or business.  Scott Bourne from MYDL.ME says that if your data doesn’t exist in at least three places (and one being off-site), it’s not backed up.

Electronics, like everything in life, fails from time-to-time and you need to be prepared. If you don’t have a back up plan, think about what you would do if something happened and you couldn’t get to the data on your computer. Do you have a plan B?

73’s, Tom