Backups in the Air
Early in August, one of my faithful readers (and have I ever told you faithful readers how much I appreciate the fact that you read what I write every week?) told me about an article in Southwest’s August Spirit Magazine entitled “Backup or Else.” Spirit Magazine doesn’t have an online edition, and I didn’t do any flying in August, so I thought I might end up missing it. However, one of my useful geek connections did fly Southwest in August, and discovered that the article was in fact the same one that appeared in the September 6 edition of PC Magazine. As a computing professional, I get PC Magazine for free, and I’d actually just cut that article out. You can read it online, and I urge you to do so. Among other things, it contains two important points in the “Best Practices” sidebar:
- “If you encounter file problems, the most recent backup of that file may have the same problems. So don’t be too quick to overwrite the older backups.”
- “Typical consumer backup products don’t save open files. So if you never close your mail file, or you keep a status-report spreadsheet open all the time, it may never get properly backed up.”
There’s also a review of BounceBack Pro, which I want to compare to Pam’s experience once she’s finished setting up her ABS drive.
Backups on the Air
A few days ago I was listening to the Kickstartnews Revue Podcast, and what should I hear but several reminders about backups. The show’s hosts had suffered from a flooded basement which delayed their podcast production, though they were fortunate enough not to experience serious data loss. (This brought up the topic of insurance coverage and the circumstances under which policies will cover you for data loss, in particular loss of third-party data. I’ll be interviewing a colleague on just that subject for next week’s column.)
Flooded basements are common anywhere people have basements (they are rare here in California). Common causes are heavy rainstorms, pipes which freeze and break during winter (something else which is rare here in California), and sewer backups (which can happen anywhere). If you have a basement family room or a home office in the basement, then your far-from-waterproof electronic equipment is at risk. I’d recommend storing your backup media or XHD in a place less likely to get wet, say a middle floor of the house (as the attic or top floor is more vulnerable to roof leaks). That also applies to your choice of a place to put the backup server or network drive. Don’t put it next to the window, either–says Sallie whose computer is usually resting under the window all night. (Maybe I should rearrange my room.)
Flooded basements are minor-league problems compared to what’s happening in Mississippi and Louisiana thanks to Hurricane Katrina. In cases of real disasters, just keeping your backups out of the basement isn’t enough. In fact, your off-site backups better be a very long way off site.
I have to admit my own backups wouldn’t save me from a disaster on that scale, and it’s making me think I’d better create some DVDs to send to my parents for safekeeping, not to mention backing up any critical working files to my website. Hurricanes, tornadoes, and earthquakes, though responsible for only a small percentage of the data lost in any year, are the answer to the question “Why would anyone pay a monthly fee for online backup services when external drives are so cheap?”
Do you know someone whose data was drowned in Hurricane Katrina? DriveSavers data recovery service is offering to waive its $200 attempt fee and cut prices by 1/3 for Katrina’s victims.
Next week: “Do your backups meet the requirements of your company’s liability policy?” featuring Charles Wilson of RiskSmart Solutions.