Monday, September 5, 2011

Backups remain non-trivial

Here's a nice post from Scott Hanselman about his recent re-work of his home computer backup strategy.

Backups remain the poor step-child of computing. Nobody does them, and so every day countless valuable data is lost to computer crashes or accidental fumble-fingering on the keyboard. Reading Scott's essay, you can see why nobody does their backups properly: it's a lot of work!

My parents are more dedicated to their backup strategy than most people I know; they have decades of digital photography, genealogy, writing, and other treasures on their computers. But still, even though they know the importance of backups and do the best they can, it's hard work. It requires constant attention and discipline to ensure that you have complete, verified, and reliable backups.

Like Scott, we've switched to using multiple spare external hard drives as the basic backup technique; online cloud backup tools seem nice, but just aren't up to the task of backing up hundreds of gigabytes. We let one run on our somewhat sizable machine, and after days it was still reporting less than 5% complete. The far simpler technique is to periodically hook up an external drive, copy everything to it (overnight), and then label that drive with an index card and store it someplace far away for safekeeping.

One problem is that those spare external drives age, too, and there's no guarantee that you'll be able to fire one up in case of emergency. Not so very long ago we did a restore from backup, and sadly had to go through three space external drives before we found one we could restore from (and we thanked our stars, since the third one was the last one we had!).

So here's a Labor Day though for those of you sitting around relaxing on this fine morning: take a few minutes and think about your backup strategy. If you haven't got one, make one. And if you've got one: I bet it's time for you to make a new backup!

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