Let’s do backups the right way

Everybody knows that backups are important. But what is the right solution for me? In this article we present and compare different options.

Have you ever experienced the pain of loosing important data?
Be it important documents you deleted by accident, a USB stick that
suddenly refuses to work, or in the worst case a computer that doesn’t boot
at all, and you’re faced with a dead screen. There are many ways to do backups and protect yourself from these scenarios and you can learn about some convenient and reliable methods in this article.
 
First step: What data is most important?
Before deciding what kind of backup you need, you need to first think about the worst case scenario that could happen to your data. Then assess how badly it would affect you if your data was gone or damaged. This will help you see that there are different levels of importance and value of your data.
 
For example, standard software, movies and music can take up lots of space in your computer, but if lost they can be easily downloaded or purchased again. However, private photos and precious work documents have high personal or monetary value, and they can never be replaced. Once you’ve decided which data is of most valuable to you, you should make a plan to do backups regularly. Once per week is recommended for most users, but for businesses, at least every day, or in some cases every hour.
 
Quick and easy solutions
For the average person the simplest (and usually sufficient) backup method is to copy the data to a USB stick or external hard drive. However, 20% of hard drives break after 3 years, so always be sure to have copies of your data at least on three different media. It’s also a good idea to store a copy at a different location, just in case of a fire, flood or other disaster.
If you own a Mac, the software “TimeMachine” helps you to do backups automatically.
 
Industrial strength backup
For companies, I recommend so-called Network Attached Storage (NAS) which is a server that contains many hard drives or SSDs that keep redundant copies of the data. Magnetic fields, dust, high humidity and even cosmic rays can change bits and bytes on hard drives. It might sound cosmically far fetched, but this so called “bit rot” is becoming an ever growing problem now with larger volumes of data being stored on ever smaller circuits. Traditional RAID systems (which stands for Redundant Array of Independent Disks) that are used at many companies unfortunately can’t cope with bit rot. So what happens is the files seem to be all there, but when you try to open them they’re corrupted and good as gone. Modern file systems like the “Zettabyte File System” (ZFS) can detect such small changes and repair them automatically.

Cloud solutions
If this sounds all too complicated and you don’t want the responsibility of running your own backups, there’s also the option of using cloud services that take care of it.
Here German Cloud providers should be chosen over USA or UK companies, because of the better data privacy laws in Germany. When backing up a huge amount of data
you should also keep in mind, that you would have to download this in case of data loss. This might take days or even weeks depending on your internet connection.

One last thing: From time to time -at least once per year- you should recover your precious data from your backup to see if the files are all there and in tact.
I wish you all the best for your data and hope that you will always have enough backup when a computer or hard drive fails.