Protect your backup data from Murphy's Law

Backing up data is crucial, but it is just as important that the backup data be protected from catastrophe as well.

Have you ever noticed that insurance seems to operate on the Murphy's Law principle? If you have it, you never need it, but as soon as the insurance is gone a catastrophe strikes. That is pretty much how backing up data often works.

Of course, you know better and you have your important data safely backed up. Right? Well, even if that's the case, it may not be enough. What you do with that backup data, and where you store it, is almost as critical as backing up the data in the first place.

For starters, you have to have the data backed up in the first place. There are a variety of tools available for the task, including NovaBackup, Acronis True Image, and others. However, if you are using a Windows PC, you already have tools at your disposal that are suitable for most common backup functions.

Click Start and type "backup" in the search bar to go straight to the Windows Backup utility. The utility lets you create a bootable System Repair disc that you can use to start and troubleshoot Windows when problems arise. You can also create a System Image that duplicates the drives and data necessary to run Windows.

For our purposes, though, you just need to set up a scheduled backup. Just select the drive you want to back the data up to, the files or folders you want backed up, and the time and day when the backup should run.

You can do full backups that copy literally every file, but those often take forever and capture gigabytes of files you don't really need. You should focus your backups on unique data that can't be replaced like original documents, financial information, e-mail communications, etc.

It is best that you backup your data to a different physical drive than the one where the original data is stored. Otherwise, a catastrophe that kills the original data will almost certainly wipe out the backup data as well. For that same reason, the backup data should be stored on an external drive or system--like a portable USB drive.

OK. So, now your data is being backed up on a regular basis to an external USB drive. You can sleep soundly, knowing that your data is protected and you have nothing to worry about, right? Wrong.

Remember--a fire that melts your PC and primary data into a molten puddle of plastic and metal will have a similar effect on that portable USB hard drive sitting next to it. You need to take additional steps--like storing the external USB drive in another room. For better protection, you can use a fireproof storage box.

While it provides additional protection, physically moving the backup data after each backup is not very convenient, and any solution that requires manual intervention like that is almost bound to fail at some point. Instead, you can use a disaster proof drive like those offered by ioSafe.

The ioSafe drives are capable of withstanding fire temperatures as high as 1550 degrees Fahrenheit, and can also survive being submerged in up to 10 feet of flood water as long as three days. Suffice it to say, if a disaster strikes that destroys your data on the ioSafe drive, you probably have even bigger issues to worry about.

Of course, an alternative solution which is rapidly gaining mainstream acceptance is cloud storage. Neither a fire, nor a flood at your office will have any effect whatsoever on your data stored safely at a remote data center hundreds of miles away. Services like Carbonite or Mozy offer solid backup solutions with simple tools to help you automate data backups to the cloud.

Regardless of how you choose to protect your data, and where you choose to store it, it is crucial that you back up your data on a frequent and regular basis. It is also critical that you make sure your backup data will survive whatever disaster it is that destroys the original data, and that the backup data is accessible so you can restore it when necessary.

Murphy's Law is watching you. Don't get caught without insuring your data.

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Tony Bradley

PC World (US online)
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