Newman’s premise is that what you really need to think about when you’re setting up a backup system (especially for an enterprise) is what happens when you have to use your backups. If you have everything on tape but all the tapes are in a data storage center in the next state, you won’t be able to get up and running until you can get those tapes. That could mean a lot of down time, which translates into lost money.
Here are the questions which Newman suggests you ask yourself before you decide which backup system is right for you:
- How are you going to restore the operating system and what are the expectations for how long this will take?
- How much user data will need to be restored and what are the expectations for how long this will take?
If you have the time (and skills) to reinstall your operating system and reformat your hard drive, then you don’t need to back up the operating system. If you have all your software installation CDs or files (for downloaded software), and the time to reinstall them and get your preferences set up, you don’t need to back up your installed programs.
But if you can’t spare the time involved in that (minimum 2 hours for the OS, and possibly 10 hours or more for the software on a fairly typical home or home office computer), you need a backup solution that backs up your entire drive as installed (something like Ghost or TrueImage). The last Ghost restoration I did from a FireWire drive took me all of 15 minutes.
What you absolutely must back up, however, is the data you create yourself, whether that’s music files, videos, photos, illustrations, spreadsheets, word-processing documents, e-mail, or contact databases. The closer you have that to hand and the more frequently you back up, the faster you’ll be able to get back to work.