How I work: Data Backup

As one of the writers for Lifehacker saidThere’s no excuse for not backing up your computer. Do it now.

Over the past year I’ve fully developed a backup system to keep my data safe, the following is my system

I use CrashPlan as my primary backup engine. It was the least expensive at $6/mo for unlimited cloud backups. The CrashPlan engine continuously backs up my system to “CrashPlan Central” which is their offsite backup, my service includes unlimited offsite storage, and unlimited versions, so it doubles as a file history. I also use the CrashPlan engine to back up onto a local drive, a 1-TB Segate portable drive that lives on my desk. I run that backup daily while I sleep, this is to have redundancy, and so I have a local backup as well as an offsite backup. In addition, I have 500 GB+ of data that I backup, if I experienced a catastrophic failure of my laptop drive, downloading all that data from CrashPlan could take several days, whereas restoring from a local drive would only take a few hours.

The one drawback of CrashPlan is that their backups are stored in a proprietary format, meaning that I cannot just go onto my backup drive and copy the files I want, I have to restore the files using CrashPlan’s software. So on the offshoot that CrashPlan goes out of business or for some reason the backup engine breaks, I do a 2nd local backup weekly. Every weekend I run Windows File History using a 4-TB Western Digital HDD that lives on my desk. In addition to windows file history; I also make manual copies of specific folders (Google Drive and My Documents) to the same drive.

Finally, while it is not explicitly a “backup” I also use Google Drive to keep most of my important documents in the cloud. All of my notes for school, papers, scans of bills, tax returns, IDs, etc, live in my Google Drive folder. This gives me the convenience of having the documents I work with most accessible from any computer with internet access; it also acts as a 2nd offsite backup as well as an ad-hoc local backup of my most important files. My Google Drive folder not only stores my files in Google’s Servers, but also keeps local copies on my other Laptop, and Chromebook, which sync with Google Drive.

Below I’ve made a quick table of my backups:

Name Frequency Type Size File Versions
CrashPlan Constant Off-Site Unlimited Unlimited
CrashPlan Daily Local 1 TB Space-Dependent
Win. File History Weekly Local 4 TB Space-Dependent
Manual Weekly Local 4 TB One
Google Drive Constant Off-Site 115 GB One

At this point, I’m fairly happy with the redundancy provided in this setup. I have not suffered any major drive failures yet, but I have restored individual files/ folders after they became corrupt, or I accidentally deleted them. The file versioning in CrashPlan and Windows File History has worked flawlessly, and having all of my documents on Google Drive has saved me more than once when I’ve been separated from my laptop and up against a deadline. Going forward I am looking into options to image my entire drive, and backing up to a network drive via an FTP Server.

For someone who has never done a backup, I would highly suggest getting started. Services like CrashPlan are very inexpensive and easy to use; you simply install and forget, the engine will run in the background. Alternately, external storage is becoming less and less expensive, both Windows and OSX have very capable backup engines built into the operating system. You can buy a 1 TB drive for $60 and use the backup engine that came provided with your computer. Even just keeping important documents in a Google drive folder (Google will give you 35 GB of space free), or any cloud service, would be a good step forward. Too many young people only start backing up files after they suffer a catastrophic failure immediately before a deadline (this has happened to more than one person I know). If you have not been backing up your data I would urge you to start before something goes wrong.

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