Home and Small Business Data Backup And Storage

It doesn’t matter if you’re a home user or small business, you still need a data backup plan. Being able to protect your computer’s data files is something everyone should know about and deal with. It is never too late to start, and it’s not a complicated or expensive process.

These are some of the things I’ve seen over the years that are NOT backups. Backing up your laptop to an SD Card kept in the same laptop is not a backup. Backing up to a hard drive that never moves more than 6 inches away from your computer is not a backup. Backing up your Gmail to another Gmail account is not a backup. Backing up the only copy of your book by copying it to another folder is not a backup. The photos that are still in your camera memory are not a backup.

I (and many other nerds/geeks/professionals) use a rule usually called the 3:2:1 rule.

  • Always have at least three copies. Two isn’t enough if your data is important.
  • Always use at least two formats. HD, USB-flash, cloud, DVD – use what you can.
  • Always have at least one off-site backup. If you lose your primary location backups through flood, fire or other disaster, there should always be a safety net.

With that in mind, protect your data with these simple and inexpensive tips:

Use Backup Software
It is very important to use backup software that will automatically and regularly be backing-up your data. This software will keep your backup strategy simple and consistent, removing most of the opportunities for human error.

If you use a Mac, Windows, or Linux, there’s software to help.

If you use a Mac, Windows, or Linux, there’s software to help.

Use External Hard Drives
This is the simplest way to protect the large amount of data that is located on your computer. Media files, photographs, books – these can take up a huge amount of space. External drives are cheap, even for big-name brands. Two drives are the minimum number to use for a sensible back-up. If you can, always keep one of the external hard drives locked up in a heavy-duty, fire-proof and waterproof safe and at least one at an external location.

Don’t Use Encryption on Your Hard Drives
I’ve thought long and hard about this. For most purposes, full encryption of your computer or hard drive is not necessary. Physical security is better, because if a drive has a problem and is encrypted all data will probably be lost. Without encryption it will probably be possible to use data recovery methods to restore data from the faulty drive. Encryption is only necessary for extremely sensitive data – like accounts or medical records.

Use Cloud Storage for small, high value files.
Cloud storage isn’t necessarily the best idea for large backups, but is ideal for smaller files. Use a large, established cloud storage provider. Don’t use the cloud storage exclusively, use it as part of your overall strategy. No one method alone is a guarantee that your data is completely safe. Also, make sure that another family member or business employee knows how to find and access your data back-ups.

Complicated & delicate – the modern hard-drive.

Complicated & delicate – the modern hard-drive.

Don’t Keep Sensitive Data On Laptops
Keep sensitive data on multiple flash drives, not on the laptop’s hard drive. Laptops are stolen (and lost) in huge numbers. Flash drives are easy to lock securely away, or keep in your pocket. Use at least two flash drives just as you would use two external hard drives. As with hard-drives, use big-name brands as they are only slightly more expensive, and are much more reliable than the cheapest brands. Encryption is to be encouraged – flash drives are very cheap, and your sensitive files will usually be small.

Restrict Who Can Access Your Data
To reduce the risk of data corruption or deletion, keep children away from the computer you use for your business or important personal files. If this isn’t possible, implement a user access policy using software and regular backups are even more important. If you have other people working in your office, you should restrict which files they can access. Using a password on certain computers and files is a quick and simple solution for this.

Test Your Backups
At least a few times a year, you should access the data that you have stored on  your external hard drives, and on the cloud. Do this from your main computer, and from other computers.