Friday, 2 August 2013

Data Backup

The single most important aspect of any IT maintenance regime is ensuring that you have regular backups of your data, and that those backups would work in the case of disaster. Ideally a backup should not require the involvement of the single greatest point of failure, us, unfortunately we humans tend to be the weak link.

So for a backup regime to work effectively it's much better if it doesn't require any human involvement. That means an automated system running on a pre-determined schedule. Here at Convallis we have a multi-layered approach to our Backups. For local network backup we use a tool called SyncBackSE which synchronises the contents of specifed folders on our computers with folders on a Network Attached Storage (NAS) device, for instance my 'My Documents' folder is synchronised with a 'Documents' folder on the NAS. This happens every evening as a schedule has been setup to start this process (so that I don't have to remember to do it).

That is all very well but it still leaves us with a problem, what happens if there is a fire and the computers and NAS device are damaged? Or perhaps there is a theft and the devices are stolen? In either case all the data is lost. One approach is to backup the data onto removable media such as a flash drive or DVD and take it off site (to your house maybe?). But that's only any good if the data is smaller than the capacity of the media, and of course it relies on the unreliable human to remember to change the media (and even put it in in the first place) and then remove it from the premises.

An alternative approach is to make use of an online backup service, this immediately gives you an offsite backup. Using the software provided by the service provider the data to be backed up is selected and then scheduled for backup at a convenient time. Most services encrypt and compress the data before it is uploaded to the server, after the initial backup (which obviously makes and uploads a copy of everything) the software will only upload those files that have changed, which can save a considerable amount of space. This is the approach that we've recently adopted, we chose PerfectBackup as our provider and we were so impressed with the service that we decided to become a reseller. 

As well as PerfectBackup, for some business and our personal use we use SkyDrive from Microsoft as an additional backup solution. This is where I like to keep backup of my photographs and important personal documents as well as work documents that I may need when out and about as I can have access to them from my tablet or smartphone.

Please note that as of 1st August Microsoft will have to rename SkyDrive after a legal challenge from BSkyB