One of the challenges of any office, from one person to the enterprise, is establishing a meaningful and redundant backup scheme. More importantly is to also validate via testing backup and restore once designed. For the purposes of this post I am focusing on the smaller office scenario.
For starters, let’s look at how I backup my own operation, which includes Macs and PCs used for business (audio/music studio, consulting) as well as a personal household machine.
I assembled a scheme that includes local backup on external physical drives, online backup via two providers (Carbonite for the personal and Mozy for the business) and an additional continuity step of burning optical media and storing off site. This latter step is to protect the most sensitive and critical data on DVD in a bank safe deposit box. This DVD burning step is performed once monthly across the machines. It remains the only labor intensive step as everything else is automated.
With any backup solution, there should be at minimum two levels to ensure total coverage of your data. One is to preserve your critical business documents and electronic materials (including email, documents, multimedia files, pictures and images, etc.) and the other is to ensure you can restore your applications and operating systems.
This would include software bought online and downloaded only. These latter applications should always be burned to CD and stored with the corresponding email containing licensing keys and registration codes.
In most cases, one can use a disk cloning or imaging tool to preserve the entire disk. On Macs I use Time Machine to do this as it copies the entire drive externally and then also covers ongoing incremental backup. On the PC’s I have a batch job that backs up what I need to save.
Some Steps to Take
- Create a “kit” – be it a binder or storage box – that stores all of your applications and operating systems CD/DVD installation media, and the associated license keys. Don’t forget about mobile software, downloaded software and other software without physical media. Burn them to disk and store them with associated emails
containing registration information.
- Once you assemble this kit – scan its contents and fold the file(s) into your backup process.
- Also keep a paper copy of this binder in your off site storage (including restore media!).
- Use an electronic method for storing business critical user names and passwords to websites. This can be easily handled in a tool such as RoboForm (PC’s) or 1Password (Macs) or if you insist a password-protected Excel spreadsheet (I highly oppose this last option – but if you are intent on doing it at least secure the file).
- Using a password keeper allows you to fold the data storage file(s) for the password tool into your backup.
- A bonus item with these password keepers – they offer the ability to generate (and remember) extremely difficult passwords to secure sites like banking and custodian logins and so on.
I am always considering ways to improve my backup routines as well as methods to more efficiently search what I archive.
Some things I use now:
- I have added Dropbox into my routine to sync certain files across all machines (it is cross-platform for PCs and Macs).
- Utilize desktop search (which can be configured to not only search locally but on network and external drives). On my Macs I use the built in Spotlight. For the PC’s I use Google Desktop Search.
- A bonus item – desktop search can be very valuable as it also can search all of your imaging storage as well as your email client among others.
Some areas I am researching:
- External hard drives have come a long way. I am hoping to get my hands on a review unit from DROBO from Data Robotics to consider building this into my backup routine as well as recommending to clients. DROBO is an advanced disk storage device that brings enterprise-class disk and backup capabilities (hot-swapping, RAID, etc) to the home office and small business.
- They can also be daisy chained and expanded.
- One could also take a hot-swapped drive and store if off site in addition to or as a replacement to the off site DVD storage.