This article may be about backups, but you know you want to read it anyway.

(this article originally published 7/6/12)

Do you know how difficult it is to make an article about backing up computer data sexy? Try it sometime. We’re about to, so hang on to your hats….

Okay, so everyone hates it. No arguments there. (We’re some of the only people you’ll ever meet who will confess they like it.) It’s like going to the dentist – everyone knows you’re supposed to, everyone hates the hassle of it, and we’ve all managed to convince ourselves that the chances of disaster are relatively slim (who doesn’t know that one guy who’s never done it and his life is still perfect?). However, we all know that it’s one of those things that will only bring your world crashing down at the worst possible moment, leaving you with that nagging self-loathing that only comes from the knowledge that your catastrophe was completely preventable. We’ve been there and we get it, don’t worry.

A good portion of our business happens to come from cleaning up after those catastrophes, when innocent professionals wake up one morning to find that their office has flooded, or that their systems were hacked (more frequent than you might think) and their data security compromised, or sometimes that the hardware has just failed. Unlike cavities, which can usually be prevented by avoiding certain foods and flossing whenever you remember to, there’s no way to prevent hardware from giving out or wearing out. Entropy really isn’t very nice sometimes.

If you’ve been reading any of our past articles, you know that we tend to harp on the importance of your data’s security. It’s kind of the thing that allows your business to run, and you have to be able to rely on it for the well-being of you and your company. We know you don’t want to hear it, but it really is worth a little effort to protect it.

So! How can we make “digital dentist trips” more bearable?

1. Schedule backups so that they happen automatically. You won’t even have to think about them, and you get all the nice warm fuzzy feelings of knowing your data will still be there in the morning. Schedule them for the middle of the night, and you won’t even have to be left without computer access during the day.

2. Use a cloud-based service as your secondary backup. (Yes, you really do need at least two different modes of backup).

3. If you have a vast amount of data to protect, or you’re just especially paranoid (we totally understand), use multiple secondary backups and rotate them in and out of use in case of failure.

4. Also, for those who need to back up more data, invest in an appliance like a Barracuda Backup Service device or Message Archiver. The second one is especially important if the entirety of your company’s business is handled through email.

5. Finally, get one of our Backup Checkups. We evaluate your current backup hardware and protocols, validate your media, check your devices for defects, and perform a test restoration. What good is having a backup plan if you find out that it doesn’t work when it really counts? They’re quality for the price, and best of all, signing up for one before Wednesday, July 18 enters you into a drawing for a FREE Touro Desk Pro 1TB USB 3.0 External Hard Drive! There’s no downside to having one of those, but it has a lot of upsides, including 3 free GB of cloud storage in addition to the terabyte (that’s 1,000 GB) of hardware storage you’re getting. All you have to do is email pattyz@msmctech.com (put “Backup Checkup” in the subject line) and sign up for a Backup Checkup for you or for your company (which you really should be getting anyway). Doesn’t get much easier than that, folks.

Most external drives and backup devices come with software which allows you to schedule backups, but if not, you can still schedule them yourself. (With Windows, you can do this at Control Panel → Backup and Restore; with a Mac, all you need is Time Capsule.) For a casual user, backing up data once a week is probably sufficient, but backups will need to be more frequent (and with multiple devices) when professional data is concerned.

Cloud-based applications: most people are acquainted with “cloud computing” at this point – using a trusted Internet-based service to host your data on an offsite, third-party-owned server which makes the data accessible to the user from any location. You can go anywhere and use any computer to access your data. As a technology company that deals largely in Internet security, we’re wary of any solutions which encourage you to trust all your data to the cloud, but it’s suitable for a secondary backup device in most situations. Upside: no hardware to lug around, no cables to forget, no setting reminders on your phone to make sure you back up your data frequently enough. Downside: once again, as security technicians, we’re always aware of the risks you take when making information accessible on a global network. But if you are at all skittish, ask us and we’ll help you determine what’s best for your company.

The rest of the above points are fairly self-explanatory. The more backup devices you have in a rotation, the lesser chance you have of losing anything important. The questions are simply, how sensitive is the information? How much does your business rely on it? Does the nature of the information make it more likely to be targeted? Also, when it comes to devices like the Barracuda storage appliances – the larger your network, the bigger and badder your backup devices need to be. It’s also worth asking yourself how much of your information needs to be backed up – some storage solutions can be programmed to only back up programs or data that have been used or modified since the last backup, saving you time and storage space.

External hard drives and USB drives are portable, usually reliable, and, depending on what type, can store a lot of information. Tape storage devices (like DAT, DLT, and – dare I say – 9-track) are unreliable, expensive, slow, and small in terms of storage space. The media which actually stores the information is fragile and easily rendered useless. We do not recommend them. For cloud-based solutions, we can recommend Intronis and our own ProSysCtrl managed platform service – which, as a bonus, will monitor the health of your hardware, software, and devices, while alerting you to any possible appliance failures before they happen, giving you time to safeguard your data. (You know, an ounce of prevention and all that jazz.)

If you’re still left with questions about how much of your information needs backing up, how frequently, and with what devices, we’re always happy to help. Give us a call at 440.892.9997 or email info@msmctech.com and let us help you protect your business.

Oh, and did we mention there’s a shiny and super-fast new FREE Touro 1TB External Hard Drive involved?

As always, feel free to contact us with questions or for further information.

Copyright ©2012, Micro Systems Management. All rights reserved.

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