Backup checklist - Part 2: What to look for
- Created: Monday, 16 March 2015
- Written by Warwick Grigg
In my previous post I covered how to check your personal backup system (for your laptop or stand alone PC) to ensure that it’s doing what you need and that you’ll be able to recover your documents, emails, accounts etc when you need to.
In this post I’ll cover some of the more strategic choices you have, such as local vs online, backing up the operating system, cloud services, encryption, cost, security, price. I’ll follow up with a post on backup for enterprise servers and backups.
Local vs Online
You need online backup for some things and local backup for others. Perhaps that’s a 50:50 split, 80:20, or 99:1 etc, depending on the size of your data, your available bandwidth, the value of the various types of data you store, regulatory compliance, your budget etc.
You probably won’t want to backup your operating system online each day, but keep an image on USB disk. Conversely, it’s a no brainer to backup your customer database and Sage accounts online.
It’s likely that you have quite a lot of data online already. If you use cloud services such as Office 365 or Google mail, or Xero accounts, etc you’ll need to consider your strategy for those separately.
One of the reasons for choosing cloud services such as Office 365, Google Apps for Work, Salesforce, Dropbox, Xero etc, is to delegate the task of backup and recovery to the service provider: you’ll have confidence that they’ll handle hardware failures as necessary without you having to get involved. You do need to consider what happens if you or your colleagues delete information, either accidentally or maliciously. Check that the service provides you the ability to recover deleted information. You may have to upgrade to a higher service level, subscribe to an add-on service, or download backups regularly to your PC.
You’ll need to consider encryption even for the most basic level of legal compliance. Whether that’s for old fashioned tape backup, USB backup disks, or online backup you need to encrypt personal information you back up when it’s in transit and when you can’t be sure it’s stored securely.
The low cost online backup services, particularly those providing unlimited space, are only viable because they de-duplicate information. When millions of people back up their copy of Disney’s Frozen or Ed Sheeran’s X, behind the scenes the system stores only one copy, not millions, thereby reducing costs. Such de-duplication is only possible with an encryption key that you share with the online backup data provider. Some information you back up might be so confidential that you wouldn’t want anyone else to see it, not even your online backup company, so might have to choose a premium service offering a private encryption key.
The recovery time will depend on what’s gone wrong. If you accidentally delete a single file you’ll be able to recover it quickly. If your hard drive fails, or your office burns down it could take much longer to fully recover: days or weeks. There are things you can do to improve recovery time and alternative approaches: calculate how much each day of downtime would cost your business so you know how much it’s sensible to invest.
Recovery Point in Time
Some online backup systems provide continuous backup: every time you change a document the system backs it up. This doesn’t work very well for database files (e.g. Outlook PST files) because typically they’re too large and they change too frequently for continuous backup. And most people don’t want the backup to slow down their internet connection while they’re working. So you’ll probably choose to backup at the end of the working day, say at 7:00 pm. In this case your “Recovery Point in Time” is “close of business the previous day”. Remember to stop your laptop’s hibernation from stopping the backup from running.
Remember to consider backup and recovery every time you make a change to your systems: when you start using a new application, change your email system, make changes to the way you do things, or handle information for a new client.