If you’ve never heard of journalspace, don’t feel bad—I hadn’t either until it popped up in my Google Alerts for “Backup.” My ignorance notwithstanding, the blog hosting company had been around for 6 years and had 14,000 visitors each month. Now all those blogs have vanished, with the bloggers left struggling to retrieve their posts from the Google cache if they didn’t have backups of their own.
So what happened? Someone—or something—erased all the data on the journalspace server. There were no backups. One of my Scary Statistics posts mentions that 60% of companies that lose their data go out of business within 6 months. Journalspace was forced to shut its doors much sooner than that.
The story has been all over the net—just look at my Backup Bookmarks posts over the past few days for a collection of links. Feel free to go read them for more details, or look at the journalspace blog. (Since they’re putting their domain name up for sale, that link may not be good for long.)
What I want to concentrate on here are two lessons we can all learn from this catastrophe.
RAID Is Not Backup
I once compared some form of backup or another to RAID, and some kind(?) person was quick to point out to me the error of my ways. Now that I own three different RAID devices (the Maxtor Shared Storage II, the Buffalo LinkStation Mini, and the Buffalo Quattro), I understand RAID a bit better. By using a “mirroring” array, RAID can help protect you from data loss. Because all data is written to two or more disks simultaneously, you’re still safe if one of those drives fail. That was the case with my first Maxtor Shared Storage II, Teras. One day the drive started making horrible clicking noises. Fortunately for me, I had Teras in RAID 1 (mirroring) configuration, and only one of the two drives inside the box was damaged. The wizards at Seagate/Maxtor were able to retrieve the data from the other drive for me without trouble, and I restored that data to the replacement MSS-II (named Teratides, which means “son of Teras”) fairly easily from the USB drive Jay sent it back to me on.
If you’re running a server, you definitely want RAID—the higher level, the better. Servers are generally on 24/7 and that kind of wear and tear makes it more likely one of the disks will go.
But RAID is no substitute for backup. It doesn’t protect against viruses, theft, human error, or natural disaster. Anything deleted from the first drive automatically disappears from all the mirroring drives. Journalspace had two drives in a mirroring (RAID 1) configuration, and no backups. They learned the limitations of RAID the hard way.
Don’t Count on Your ISP for Backups
Some hosting companies make backups of their clients’ data, and some don’t. Even if yours does, remember that it’s your data and therefore your responsibility to protect it. Make a backup onto your own computer. I don’t know what provisions the journalspace platform made for its users to back up their blogs, but one reason I like WordPress is the ease of backing up my blog content. Just install the WP-DB-Backup plugin and tell it how often to e-mail your backup to you. Restoring the data or moving it to another blog is easy.
Store Backups Off-site
There’s a possibility that what happened to journalspace was the result of sabotage by a disgruntled former employee of their datacenter. When you keep your backups in your office, anyone who has access to the physical location of your computer also has access to your backups. While you want some backups close at hand, you also need to keep copies of your most critical data somewhere else.
My heart goes out to all the people who have lost their jobs. I hope none of journalspace’s former customers goes out of business because of it. And I don’t want anyone who reads this blog to have to experience that kind of pain.
Back up. Back up. Back up.