Sunday, July 17, 2011

Backup, Backup and Backup

At some point in time we have all heard about someone who lost all of their data due to a hard drive crash. I've never had this happen to me, yet, but it could; anything is possible. So today I'm going to share with you my backup strategy.

Why do it? Simple, insurance. I may never have a problem, and may never need to go back and use any of the backup copies to recover data, but what if? It's pretty easy to do and there are a lot of inexpensive ways to do it, but if you want to spend more money there's no shortage of solutions there either. What you need to decide is how you want to do it, and how much you want to spend.

For me, I think a really simple backup strategy looks like this:

1) Backup of main files on one drive at your main location (i.e., home or office).

2) Backup that first drive onto a second drive - store this second drive in another part of you home or office so it's close if you need it.

3) Backup a third drive and store that one off site at an alternate location. Why is this important? Because your hard drive might not crash, it could be damaged in a fire, flood, hurricane, tornado, etc., or stolen after a break in. It's another layer of protection.

My focus here is more on a simple home based backup strategy; however, I think you can still apply the same principles to small/medium sized business. Me, I went for the smaller less expensive set-up. I work from a laptop and used to store all of my images on the hard drive with only 1 external drive as a backup. I switched my configuration for 2 reasons 1) my laptop hard drive was getting full; and 2) I had read a couple of blogs about others' experiences with recent drive failures. So here's what my set-up looks like based on my suggestions above:

1) Western Digital My Book Mirrored 2TB RAID configured to RAID 1 - this gives me 1TB storage mirrored on 2 disks - the My Book is also where my main source image files are stored. My Lightroom catalogs still reside locally on my laptop and get backed up to the My Book along with a few other folders. Because of the RAID 1 configuration I already have some protection here. If one drive fails I can replace it and keep on going.

2) The My Book gets backed up to an older Seagate 250GB Free Agent drive - this was my first backup drive from a few years ago so it still serves me well at this point. It's only 250GB so if it gets full I'll just replace it; external drives are pretty cheap now.

3) Another copy is made to a small portable Seagate Go Flex 500GB - I store this one off site.

All of these drives come with their own backup software, but I use a program call Second Copy, which works really well for me. You have a lot more control over your backup jobs and it's really easy to use. If you're using a Mac, then you already Apple's Time Machine, which I understand works very well, too.

As I mentioned before, you don't need to spend a lot on some uber sophisticated system; my set-up cost less than $400. External hard drives now are quite cheap. You can get portable 1TB drives for under $100.00. Grab a few of these and make multiple copies. If you want to spend more you can look at multi-drive RAID units that have various configurations (i.e., 2, 4 or 8 drive bays) depending on what you need. If you head in this direction I suggest that you consider one with hot-swappable drives like a Drobo or G-Safe. Can't forget that there are also a number of online storage solutions like Carbonite or CrashPlan.  Tech guru (and all around nice guy), Terry White, recently wrote about CrashPlan on his blog.

So there you go. This is what I do, and it works for me. As I mentioned earlier there are many ways to do this, all you need to do is decide what you think is going to work best for you. If you haven't yet thought about your own backup strategy, then I hope I have shed some light on it for you.



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