Simple, stress-free backups of your vitally important digital data (part 1 of 2)

Today I want to talk (as briefly and as simply as possible) about data backups.

Now, obviously there are a lot of expert opinions out there on this subject and many of these opinions are more expert than mine.  However, I have done my research and come up with a system that works really well for me.  As I get asked about data backups a fair bit I thought I would put this information down in writing so that all your lovely folks out there on the world wide interwebs can steal my…er, I mean learn from my experiences and hopefully avoid that sinking feeling when you realise you just lost something important and you have no way of ever getting it back…

Ok so let’s keep it real simple and start with the basic basics.

What is a backup?

A backup (in the context of the digital/computer/photo world) is an extra copy/copies of important data that you keen in case the original copy explodes/catches on fire/gets run over/flees the country/gets accidentally deleted or saved over by the very people who it’s important to.

Why do I need backups?

Because hard drives die, memory cards get corrupted, or erased/re-formatted too soon, houses burn down, computers get stolen, etc etc etc.  (I’m actually an optimist, honest!).

Ok, so give me a quick and easy solution – what do I need to look for in a backup?

I’m going to quote two backup mantras – “3, 2, 1” and “if your backup isn’t automatic you may as well not even bother”.  (Yeah I know that second one isn’t very catchy, I’ll work on it…).

Ok, so “3, 2, 1” refers to this;

(3)  You want to keep 3 copies of all your vital data, ie the original copy plus another 2 copies.  3 copies is safer than 2 and you’re statistically very unlikely to see all 3 copies die at the same time as long as you follow rule #2 which is…

(2)  Make sure your 3 copies of your data are spread across at least 2 different mediums (eg 2 copies on hard drive and 1 copy on Bluray disc, 1 copy on hard drive, 1 in the cloud, 1 on Solid State Drive).  This is because if all 3 copies are on the same medium they share the same vulnerabilities.  Ie you have all 3 copies on hard drives in your home office.  Your house gets broken into and your computer stolen.  Boom, your data is gone.  Or you experience a lightning strike.  Kpow!!  Your data is gone.

(1) Make sure that at least 1 backup is stored in a different location to the other 2.  Ie 2 copies are on hard drives in your home office, 1 is stored in the cloud (which is offsite as the servers your data will be saved on will be in a different location/city/country to your home address.

“If your backup isn’t automatic you may as well not even bother” refers to this;

I think this one explains itself.  If your backup system is difficult (either to backup your data or to restore data from the backup) you may as well forget it.  If it’s not automatic you may as well forget it.

Even if you start out with the best of intentions, within a few weeks you will get busy/forget about backups and then one day when you lose some vital data, do you think it’s going to have been backed up?  Probably not…

In Part 2 of this blog post I will talk through my backup process and the software and hardware I use to ensure my data is safe.  Hopefully you find this info helpful and it helps to keep your vital data safe and sound.


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