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Backup Solutions - Saving your Data One Byte at a Time

Posted October 01, 2009 12:00 AM by Kaplin


Hard drives fail. It's inevitable, but you can save yourself a huge amount of headache and heartache by being prepared for a worst case scenario. The sad truth is that there is no single backup solution. Everyone has different needs and the correct solution for one person might not work for another.

Ideally, you would want multiple backups with different methods to ensure redundancy and data safety, with at least one copy stored off site. Below we'll take a look at the options available and weigh the pros and cons of each.

(These backup solutions all work more efficiently when storing your files on a disk other than your operating system drive.)

Internal Hard Drive
Backing-up your data to a second hard drive within your computer's chassis is one of the most efficient ways to backup large quantities of data. There are a few major flaws with this method, however.

Internal hard drives can be setup as a RAID-1 array or added as a second drive with files copied to it manually. RAID-1 is a hard drive setup that duplicates all data on two separate hard drives. This has the benefit of being automatic with no extra effort needed by the user.

RAID-1 can save a lot of time making manual backups of your data, but has many risks as well. One consideration for choosing this setup is that your hard disk space is cut in half due to the mirroring of data. Another drawback is that this method won't protect against files that are deleted accidentally or corrupted, as the corrupted file would be copied to both disks.

External Hard Drive
External hard disks have a lot of the same positive features as internal hard discs, but also contain a few extra advantages and disadvantages. The disadvantages are that external drives are less reliable than internal drives and need more manual steps in the backup process. On the positive side, external drives are portable, which means you can bring them to a separate location for off-site backup. This will ensure protection against fire, theft, or other natural disaster.

Burnable Media (DVD, BD)
Backing-up your data to disc is one of the safest and most secure ways to save your information. The only problem with burning to DVD is that each disc will only hold 4.7GB (or 8.5 if you have a dual-layer drive). If you're backing up pictures and word documents then that amount should be more than enough. But some of us have hundreds of GBs worth of information we'd like saved; this would take almost a whole spool of blank DVDs and hours upon hours of disc burning.

Blu-ray discs, although available in sizes up to 50GB, are still expensive and provide much less space for your money than hard drives.

Online Storage Services
There are companies who offer data backup services for a fee (sometimes smaller accounts are free). With these companies, your data should be safe as far as loss is concerned, since they are storing your data off-site and probably have their own backup solution in place as well.

One major concern some people have with these services is privacy. Yes, almost all of them use encryption so outsiders on the internet won't be able to get into your data, but if using an encryption key provided by the backup service, they would still have full access to your data. Providing your own encryption key would be more secure, but if the key is lost, no one will be able to help you recover your files, thus making them inaccessible. If you are not concerned with the privacy of your data and don't mind paying the monthly fee, then this might be the best option for you. (Call me paranoid but I don't want the contents on my entire hard drive floating around on some company's server!)

Automated Backups
Backing-up your data manually can be time consuming and inefficient. Even if you do a manual backup once a week, you still have 6 days worth of data that is unprotected.

Surprisingly enough, your data can be compressed, encrypted, password protected, and sent to an off-site location for storage automatically by a little program you might have heard of called WinZip. To send your data to a remote location, you must have an alternate location to send to - such as a web domain, online storage service, or even a friend's computer who is setup to receive FTP files from you.

What methods do you use to backup your data? Or do you not care about your family pictures and MP3 collection enough to make the effort?

More Info:
The Best File Backup Scheme
How to Set Up RAID on Your PC
Make Free Online Backup Part of Your Data-Security Plan

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#1

Re: Backup Solutions - Saving your Data One Byte at a Time

10/01/2009 11:19 AM

What methods do you use to backup your data?

An inexpensive NAS drive. That way everybody in the family can access it, and all data has the ability to be in 2 places (originating computer and NAS drive).

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#2
In reply to #1

Re: Backup Solutions - Saving your Data One Byte at a Time

10/01/2009 12:36 PM

I use this.

RAID is not a backup solution. It is intended to mitigate downtime due to a single hard drive failure. It does nothing in the case of a power supply or motherboard malfunction, human error, natural disaster, software corruption or malware.

Keep it in a bank safety deposit box and all your bases are covered.

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#3

Re: Backup Solutions - Saving your Data One Byte at a Time

10/02/2009 4:03 AM

I don't think that DVD's are that safe and reliable. Four years ago ago a Dutch computer magazine did a test by burning a number of DVD brands with the same data. The DVD's were stored under ideal circumstances for 2 years and than checked for readability. The result: The data of 20% of the discs could NOT be recovered!! TDK proved to be the best. Gold DVD's were not tested. I do not know how the reliability of BlueDisc is rated but might be not much better. In order to be safe you have to copy all of your discs each year which is quiet expensive in terms of expensive time.

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#4
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Re: Backup Solutions - Saving your Data One Byte at a Time

10/02/2009 4:33 AM

In our company all data is stored on a server and backed-up periodically, such that one may have e.g. accidentally deleted files restored or replaced by an earlier state. The problem is to realize that a file has been deleted or is altered unintentionally. On a separate system we generate special measurement data which is automatically copied inside the UNIX-computer network to some other nodes each hour as well as burned to DVD's each half year. Since all data is burned each half year (its only 5 discs at this moment) we keep all old versions to have the possibility to prove that old data has never been altered. This data uses lossy compression like JPEG or MP3 and is thus way less memory consuming than comparable industrial standard formats. At home do I use a cheap mirrored NAS as well as portable harddiscs, which are switched-off most of the time. The NAS has a spin-down function for the discs after 20min idle time. We use this NAS with about 4+ persons but not on a daily basis. Beside that I still use magneto-optical cartridges which I kept from a former company I've worked for. They have a capacity of 128, 230 and 640MB and I've never ever incapable of reading a cartridge. For music I use mainly the SONY Mini-Disc which I got since their introduction back in 1995 or so. Meanwhile I store data on the 1GB-HiMD's, which I like because of their small size. Also the drives to read the data are really small and can be connected like an USB-Stick. The MO- and MD-data writing is about 4 to 10-times slower than e.g. harddisc writing. So you have to consider the time needed to do the backups. I miss the SmartCopy program from MacOS which installed into the OS's file copy routines and did a very reliable smart copy (=copy only those files which are missing or newer in the destination directory).

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#5
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Re: Backup Solutions - Saving your Data One Byte at a Time

10/02/2009 8:07 AM

CDs & DVDs are short term only. Make at least two copies and store them seperate from each other....in different houses at least.....make fresh backups on a regular basis.

Best is industry tape and at least two copies (as before).....but drives cost €5000 or more.......secondhand is far cheaper......plenty of drives around that can write 100GB or more around per tape.....if the data is reasonably compressible, 200GB can be safely achieved.

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#6

Re: Backup Solutions - Saving your Data One Byte at a Time

10/05/2009 7:32 AM

A better solution is in the making, solid state drives. The cost on them is still high for large volume but I believe it was Kingston that recently came out with a 256GB jump drive. It won't be long before the disk hard drive goes the way of the VHS tape.

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#7
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Re: Backup Solutions - Saving your Data One Byte at a Time

10/05/2009 7:46 AM

For backup?

What if the mains fails?

What if the UPS fails?

You need something easily transportable, where you have at least two seperate copies of all important data.....nothing less is safe.....

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#8
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Re: Backup Solutions - Saving your Data One Byte at a Time

10/05/2009 8:15 AM

Were you being serious? Because if the mains and UPS fail, it doesn't affect my backups at all. And jump drives are the most portable thing to hit the computer industry since the laptop. I have another hard drive in my computer that I do Ghost images to of many of the systems that I take care of and I use a jump drive to back up the really important stuff twice. My confidence in the jump drive came from the director of IT at my facility, he said that his jump drives never quit working until they have been through the washer and dryer at least 4 times, and I've not had any problems as of yet...but I had better get 5 more now and re-back up my backed up back ups because...nothing less is safe...

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#9
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Re: Backup Solutions - Saving your Data One Byte at a Time

10/05/2009 8:46 AM

Did you notice that no mention was made of the manufacturer of the drives? The drive type is by the way NOT a Jump drive.....a solid state drive is usually something else....If you wish to have further infos on that score just ask.....

Do you really believe that there is only one type of these (not jump) drives in the world?

I was answering generally, for what was written generally. No more, no less.......

But:-

I am pleased for you that you have had so much fun with your "Jump" drives, but you are really taking a risk if you sincerely believe that data cannot get lost on them!!!! Many people just lose them completely.....fall out of the pocket etc...

Viruses can still wreak havoc for example, hardware can still break.

In your friend's case, using the wrong washing power or machine cycle can also damage them

Nothing in this world is 100%, and that goes for data safety too........be warned:-

"Pride goes before a fall"?

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Re: Backup Solutions - Saving your Data One Byte at a Time

10/05/2009 9:13 AM

These 256GB Kingston jump drives currently go for about $900 and aren't available in the US.

Smaller (cheaper) jump drives can be good for storing backups of some documents but for large quantities, its just not economical yet.

The same goes for SSD drives but prices are coming down at a decent rate for those.

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#11
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Re: Backup Solutions - Saving your Data One Byte at a Time

10/05/2009 9:49 AM

I never stated that jump drives (or should I use the term 'thumb drive' to be less offensive?) were solid state drives, but I guess I could see how someone might possibly read it that way.

And as far as the whole 'data can still get lost on them' and 'viruses can wreak havoc and hardware can still break' stuff. Well, the earth could open up and swallow this whole facility while tornados watch close by as lightning strikes by the thousands decimate the building as it goes into the earth. All anybody can do is prepare for what problems are in their probable future and then maybe go a little beyond that, but then don't worry about it. And if that's not good enough for you, then IMHO you need to step back and ask yourself why.

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#12
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Re: Backup Solutions - Saving your Data One Byte at a Time

10/05/2009 10:35 AM

I was in the business, I had customers like Lufthansa, Mercedes, Deutschebahn, BMW, VW etc etc etc...

I worked with their top professionals with regard to all aspects of data safety. They were still losing data because they were approaching the problems incorrectly.....these Guys were $200,000 a year or more professionals.....and they still did not know or understand the whole problem. Part of my job was to educate them better.....I did it all over the world.

So I do not expect anyone on such a blog as this to understand it either.....

SSDs will lose data when the power drops unless they have battery/Disk/non volatile backup.....many do not......

SSDs are there to remove the latency of using real disks, real disks are simply too slow for some special applications......

Thumb disks are often not much faster than the floppies they replaced.......they are there as portable storage, not to improve application speed.....

Remember, thumb drives are not the same thing as SSD.......except at a very superficial level.....

Have a look here and I think you may find it interesting and educational!!!

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#13
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Re: Backup Solutions - Saving your Data One Byte at a Time

10/05/2009 11:22 AM

I don't care who you worked for. And I don't care if you think you're smarter than those guys making $200,000 a year. And I don't care that you think you're smarter than anyone else on this forum. You can read whatever you want out of what I posted because I don't care what you think. You try and talk down to me and basically everyone on this forum? Uncalled for.

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#14
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Re: Backup Solutions - Saving your Data One Byte at a Time

10/05/2009 5:12 PM

Have you got some sort of inferiority complex? Can you not discuss without losing your cool?

I was explaining that I am well qualified in this area. Nothing more, nothing less.

Did you look at the link? I guess not. Sad really, then maybe you might have understood a little more about SSD...... and not gone off like a 2 cent rocket!!

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#15
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Re: Backup Solutions - Saving your Data One Byte at a Time

10/06/2009 7:18 AM

So I do not expect anyone on such a blog as this to understand it either.....

Can you explain to me how the above is explaining qualification and not insulting?

Anyway, I did not lose my cool. There was no bold type or even an exclamation point in the post. It was typed as calmly as anything else I've typed on this forum I guess. It's just when somebody starts throwing out phrases like that above, it tells me that it's not anybody that I want to listen to anyway. I shouldn't have even replied after that, but was giving you the benefit of the doubt.

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#16
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Re: Backup Solutions - Saving your Data One Byte at a Time

10/06/2009 10:20 AM

??????

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#17
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Re: Backup Solutions - Saving your Data One Byte at a Time

10/06/2009 5:22 PM

Also, data stored on "Thumb" drives is not premanent. We (our company) used some thumb drives to hold some proprietary data we needed to transport around the country to load on systems. I don't remember the exact time span, but we started losing data after a while. Yes, the folks were very careful about where they set the drives down and what kind of electronic or magnetic fields were near by. We do work with many voltage and current levels, so we have to be aware of our surroundings at all times.

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