Is Your Data Safe?

In the past I have visited schools, businesses and domestic users who thought their data was safe because they were backing up regularly. On many occasions the backup drive was stored at the side of the computer. If there had been a fire or burglary all would have been lost.

I remember one school that used an incremental backup system. This system creates a full backup of all your data once a week and then every day creates a backup of all the files created or altered from the previous day. It is common practice to store backup drives in a remote secure place or a fireproof safe. The school had one person take one drive home every day. This would have been fine on Monday when a full backup of all the data had been created but what about the following days when they were only taking a backup of the changed files from that day home? A fire or theft on those days would have been disastrous.

Many backup systems I have seen have not been fully tested at any stage and others have been configured incorrectly so in the event of data loss would have been useless.

There are so many ways a local backup system can go wrong.

Online backup

Online backup offers many solutions to the above problems.

“But will my data be safe?”

Modern online backup systems protect your data with several layers of security, sending encrypted data over secure connections. The data is then stored in encrypted format on multiple servers sometimes at more than one site. These companies know of potential data security problems that you may not even be aware of.

“But I have too much data to transfer over the internet”

A lot of people are put off online backup because they have large amounts of data and perhaps a slow internet connection to add to their problems. Online backup companies offer “offline seeding” a system where they send you a USB backup drive large enough to contain all your data. You copy your data to the drive and then return it to them. They then transfer the contents to their servers. After this they connect remotely to your server and transfer any files that are new or altered since your local backup. At this stage they have a full backup of your system.


Data versioning to recover accidentally deleted or overwritten files

You may have a local backup system that uses 6 backup drives for full or incremental daily backups (Monday to Saturday).

If you accidentally delete or overwrite a file one day and realise the next day then the file can be restored from an earlier backup as long as it is no more than a week ago. If it is then you have lost your file. There are answers to this but they involve using a lot of storage drives.

The best online backup companies store sequential backup copies of your data so you can search for and restore data from earlier backups should you accidentally lose a file.


Data accessible on all your devices

As well as backing up your data safely some companies offer online access to your files as well as the ability to sync across various devices such as laptops, desktops or tablets. If you create a file at work and decide you want to work from home or while travelling, your data can be accessed remotely and after you have amended the file it can be saved back to the remote server which can automatically sync to your other devices such as tablets. This can save a lot of time and confusion copying files to USB sticks so you can work on them at home. What if you leave the USB stick at work, lose it or it goes faulty? What if you get confused and copy an old copy over a new one? Are there confidentiality issues if you lose your copy? Consider the peace of mind that comes from knowing that you have 2 encrypted copies on secure servers.

The problem with reliable computers

I remember many years ago my wife had a moped that ran for ages without putting fuel in. The result was that sometimes she would totally forget about fuel and run out.

It is the same with modern computers they are so incredibly reliable that people often neglect the basics of data safety such as running updates, scans and backups and ensuring there is an effective anti virus system running.

For a while you they may get away with this but ask yourself what position you would be in if you irretrievably lost all the data on your system.

If you are backing up does your backup system cover all potential events? If you’re not sure consider what would happen in the event of a flood, burglary or break in. Even if you do a full backup every day what would happen if you accidentally deleted an important file and didn’t realise it for 2 days?

If you have important data a comprehensive backup system should be put in place as soon as possible that covers all eventualities.

When time is short it is easy to think that you’ll do it some other time but what would it mean to you if all your data was irretrievably lost.

I’ll shortly be putting a post up with more in depth details.