What is a backup?

Everyone talks about backups from time to time, especially following any embarrassing news item about a company which has lost critical data! But what exactly is a backup and how do we make sure we’re doing it correctly. Read on and find the answers to these and more questions.

What is a back up?

Strictly speaking, any copy of your working data is a backup. It is its location and state which defines its usefulness. For example, you may backup religiously to a USB drive attached to your PC but this is no good if the PC (and USB drive) are lost in a fire or flood. Similarly, if you only copied a subset of data to the drive, well that wouldn’t be much good either.

My definition goes like this.
A backup is one or more separate copies of working data that can be used in case the current working data, or any part thereof, is lost or otherwise rendered unusable.

There are many different types of backups.

1. File backup. In this situation, individual files are copied to al alternate location. If you have a PC and work primarily with word processing documents, photographs or databases then this may suit your needs perfectly. This can include services such as Dropbox, Google Drive or Microsoft OneDrive however, you should never rely on these totally. There have been instances where data has been lost by these services.
2. Image Backup. Specialist backup software takes a “snapshot” of a complete disk drive or volume and saves this to a file. This is useful for protecting servers because the entire server (or PC) can be restored from the one file.
3. Archive backup. This is used most often with email but could be used with any documents or files. The data is copied to write-once archive media which is then made available to search. This provides a point-in-time copy of the data useful for later research or discovery.
4. A combination of the above!

In addition, backups can be full (everything is backed up), differential (backs up anything which has changed since the last full backup) orincremental (backs up everything which has changed since the last full, differential or incremental backup). All of these types have their strengths and weaknesses generally compromising storage space for recovery time.

How to back up

Backups are performed using special backup software. This can be as simple as a batch script to copy files to another disk or could be specialist backup software costing hundreds or even thousands of dollars. Alternatively, you could subscribe to one of the many off-site backup services which, using a small piece of software, automatically saves your data to a remote storage facility which itself is often copied to another location.

What to back up

You should backup all critical business data. This may be documents, photo files, databases etc. but only the owner of the data can decide what is classed as critical. As an alternative, you could backup everything on your computer! One item often overlooked in a backup strategy is email. Sometimes, historical emails can be crucial in the case of a future dispute so effective backup is a must.

Where to back up

Backups can made literally anywhere where the data can be stored.

  • Separate file or folder on the PC (definitely least secure!)
  • NAS (Network Attached Storage)
  • USB Drive
  • Off-site backup facility (most secure)

Best practice

The best practice for backing up your precious data is to use the 4,3,2 method. The 4,3,2 method works like this.
  • Keep 4 copies of your critical (or all) data. The data you work with is counted as one copy.
  • In 3 different locations
  • Using 2 different storage media. This could be as simple as two different brands of hard drive to cut down the possibility of simultaneous failure.

At the very least, you should keep 2 copies of your data in 2 locations other than what is on your computer.

Recovery – Convenience vs Speed

It’s all very well having a backup, but how quick and easy is it to recover in the event of something happening? This all depends what type of backup is chosen and where it is stored. File backups are generally quicker to restore than full image backups BUT you need to factor in the time to obtain new hardware. Furthermore, there may be a lot of configuration to be done, so it might actually end up somewhat slower. With an image backup, you just restore the image and reboot.
In terms of the backup location, the online service is very convenient and secure but also quite slow because the files need to be pieced together from individual chunks which is how they are stored. This is because only parts of files are ever uploaded and they are pieced together when restored. Also multiple versions of each file may be stored. In the event of a widespread disaster, you may be competing with large number of other users to download your data!

USB drives, for example, are less convenient (because you need to find the correct one and plug it in) and also more risky (because you might drop it!) but offer the fastest restore.

Important Points

  • Test restore regularly. You need to be sure that the data is being backed up correctly and can be retrieved when necessary.
  • Review your backups every few months or when business changes are made to ensure that the correct data is being backed up.
  • UPBEAT Business Computing can provide consultation, software and offsite backup services to meet your needs.

Call us today on 0800 872-328 

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