What does it really mean to back-up your data? Imagine losing all of the files on your computer, and you hadn’t backed up your data, so therefore are finding yourself spending days on end trying to recover it all.
To back up data means to essentially create a copy of the files that are worth protecting. If something happens to the original files, such as they become corrupted or inaccessible by a viral infection or a user deleting the files maliciously or accidentally, then a backed up copy of those files will be essential for the purpose of recovery.
Whether a file has become corrupted or gone missing due to a number of factors, a backup solution will allow you to restore these files back to the way they were before the aforementioned event took place. The effort and cost taken to provide a working backup solution will be vastly outweighed by the heart-ache caused by the permanent loss of data.
It seems to be the case that no matter how far our security technology increases, there will always be a flaw in the solution that someone somewhere will know about and take advantage of it. Even with those systems in place the simplest of errors, like downloading a seemingly innocent email attachment, can potentially lead to an irreparable loss of data.
A low level of security is not the only way data can be lost. You have to remember that physical storage such as USB pen drives and external hard drives come with their own different working parts and that these parts can fail. So many times I have heard of professionals storing all the work they have saved across multiple organizations over a number of years on removable storage devices, only to lose all of it when the device fails and they find they can access their files no longer. While storing files on removable storage media is a form of backup, it is not infallible and if you want to keep your data from being lost you must think of both physical and virtual backup solutions.
Typically you would find backup solutions in the form of tape, virtual disc images (ISOs), or portable media such as USB pen drives and optical media like CD or DVD-R.
As discussed before, these devices can fail which makes it very difficult to recover the files stored on that device. However, these devices can be quite an easy and convenient solution compared to the others that are available. It’s as simple as copying and pasting files on to the drive. So to summarise; it’s best to only use these portable storage devices for short term backups as time can wear out the device and cause it to fail.
At this point, it is important to mention that it is far safer to store important documents on a network share rather than on external media or the C: drive of your computer. This may seem like an obvious one but your data is far safer being stored on your company or school server rather than on your laptop that can be damaged or stolen. By the way, your entire iTunes collection probably does not qualify as “vital data” so remember that storage on your server is finite and this may not need to be backed up.
If you’re a Windows 8 user, you can also use the File History Program. For this to work, you need to enable it which you can do by searching for it on the Start Screen. Windows 8 File History will not allow you to choose what you back up, instead it will back up everything.
Another way to backup is online. Some examples for online backup are Mozy, Carbonite and iDrive. Online backups do take longer, however this better secures your backup.
Cloud storage such as OneDrive or Dropbox are other options to consider and will automatically sync up a folder on your PC to the cloud. It is advised to use more than one storage device, this will give you a peace of mind and you have more chance of retrieving lost files.
Essentially, you should backup all data which would be frustrating, costly and time consuming, or otherwise impossible to recreate from scratch. For personal use, you would probably want to make a backup of photos and videos as these would often be quite difficult to recreate.
In a business environment, you would probably own a number of servers that would contain software and systems which are vital for the company to function as well as important financial records. Although, after some time spent, software could be reinstalled, losing evidence of your finances could prove to be fatal to the business.
In an ideal world I’m sure we would all love to be able to back up all of our data on a daily or even hourly basis, but as there are costs involved with backing up solutions we must arrange our backups so they copy the most important data on a more frequent rotation than others. Typically you would run a backup of vital company or customer data at least once a day.
While having a reliable and working backup solution will prevent complete data loss, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t take measures to stop these losses happening in the first place.
Storing physical backup media in suitable environments will ensure they remain usable for a longer period of time. While transferring files from an external storage device to a computer don’t unplug the device from the computer or the power socket it’s connected to if applicable as this can often cause data loss. As aforementioned, save important files to a network share rather than on your computer.
Take care whilst downloading files from websites and emails as these are some of the most common causes of data loss. Unknowingly downloading a virus can cause damage to your computer system and, in most cases, cause the loss or theft of data. There are ways of spoofing, or faking, an email address so that people can send messages using the same or similar address as someone you know but in actual fact they are a completely different person whose only aim is to steal your data or destroy it. If someone’s email account information has been stolen, the malicious user will be able to send these harmful email attachments out using the genuine account directly. So if you’re unsure about an email attachment someone has sent you, it could be worth sending an email or phone call back to them to make sure it’s genuine.
For an organisation, you may want to put policies in place to stop anyone in particular sectors of the company from opening email attachments or downloading files from websites. It can be hard to keep an eye on even a handful of workers, let alone hundreds, and so it is important to lock down the features that are not necessary for those particular users to carry out their work on a day to day basis. You may want to create an exceptions list for those who you know you can trust and they have a genuine need to download from a website or email.
You may also want to have policies in place to stop files from being transferred to and from external storage media to ensure no malicious file are being put in to the system locally, and no company data is being stolen. These will form part of your security measures and will complement a decent anti-virus, firewall and email filtering solution.
This article has concentrated how you as an individual can take precautions to protect your important files. If you are a business owner or Headteacher of a school, you will need to implement a proper backup strategy. For school’s we recommend an on-site backup to either external media or a NAS device plus a cloud backup solution for extra resiliency. We recommend our School Cloud Backup service from CoretekCloud.
For businesses, the method of backup will vary depending of the size of the organisation and budget available. The principles already discussed are the same. Cloud backup is a very secure way of storing data but it may also pay to implement on-site backups in the event that large files need to be restored.
Both options will require the correct software to schedule and report on your backup strategy. Get in touch with us if you would to know what options are available.
So far, we have only covered the concept of being able to restore files from a backup. What about entire systems? What if this information is time-sensitive and you are losing money every minute these are unavailable? This is where you need to start considering DR and Business Continuity. We will be covering both of these in a future article including the difference between the two and how to plan a successful DR strategy.
• “Backing up” refers to making a copy of important data that you deem worth protecting
• Removable media such as USB drives have a limited life span and can be damaged or stolen
• Only use removable media as backup, not as the sole location for your files
• If possible, save files to a network share rather than on your local hard drive
• Cloud storage options such as OneDrive are a good personal backup source
• Try and backup files daily
• Be vigilant when clicking links or opening attachments in emails, even from people you recognise
• For organisations, implement security measures to restrict access to potentially dangerous sites or emails
• Consider both Cloud and on-site storage, depending on your business needs
• Ensure your organisation has a decent anti-virus, firewall and email filtering solution
• If loss of data could have a serious impact on your business, you need to consider Disaster Recovery and Business Continuity
If you need any assistance with any points raised in this article, get in touch and we will be happy to help.
Since joining Coretek in August 2015, Matt has delivered superior IT support to educational and business clients alike and works with Matt H on our cloud team. In his spare time, Matt plays MMORPGs and listens to game soundtracks.