How to keep a perfect data backup on your device

Written By: Ontrack

Date Published: 16 September 2016 00:00:00 EDT

How to keep a perfect data backup on your device

Whether a smartphone, tablet, Windows PC or Mac: nowadays keeping an up-to-date backup (at least for your most important data) is a must-have. Accidents can happen at any time, thieves are constantly on the move and data theft in electronic devices is piling up.

Why are backups necessary?

Losing data has different outcomes for different people. It all depends on what the lost data is worth to that individual. Losing only a couple of music or video files that can easily be downloaded again may not be the end of the world for some people. On the other hand, losing pictures of your only daughter's wedding, or the one copy of your doctoral thesis that you’ve worked on for years is definitely a data loss no one wants.

The same is true for companies. When a company loses data that can be recreated or easily regathered then the issue of data loss is minor. But, when business-critical data is lost and not able to be reobtained quickly, then this can cause serious problems for companies, including possible fines.

Making sure that both consumer and company data is backed-up should, therefore, be essential. However, unfortunately even a back-up can fail...

In a survey conducted by Ontrack Data Recovery earlier this year, 33% of respondents (current and former data recovery customers) did not back-up their data at all in 2017. However, even though the majority of respondents did back-up their data, only 43% were able to recover 75-100% of the data in the back-up when it was needed. Meaning that the majority of users were only able to recover up to 75% of their data from the back-up they had done.

Which device should I store my data on?

Storage options such as USB sticks are rather unsuitable, since the built-in chips can be of questionable origin which could precipitate data loss or corruption. A better way would be to use magnetic storage (HDD) as they are easier to recover data from than flash memory devices such as USB sticks and SSD drives which present a very complex task for data recovery. 

For SMBs and freelancers I would say that RDX drives (Removable Disc Exchange) are the first choice. The name speaks for itself: RDX is a removable media where the actual drive is internally or externally plugged into a special slot. The cartridges are robust and - as they are primarily designed for long-term backups - tested extensively prior to being sold. They are shock resistant and are also available in a heat-resistant version.

For businesses, using magnetic tapes to store data is very common. Magnetic tapes can store a large amount of data, are not expensive and are actually very durable – backup tapes can still be readable after at least 30 years. However, tape drives are not cheap, and handling them is much more cumbersome than with external hard drives. One other thing to consider is that when using tape media a regular check of the readability of the stored data is essential and should be included as part of the backup plan.

What is the best data backup method?

Generally speaking, a good backup consists of not a single but a double (or even triple) backup. You should store your backup on a different hard drive than the one that needs to be backed up. It is recommended to use an external hard drive (or even better, two drives) in the appropriate size to store the full backup. The external drive should be separated from the computer after the backup is complete, as some types of malware can infect the device they run on and also spread to peripheral devices or the connected network.

An ideal solution could be to back up on two external hard drives (one of which is kept in the vicinity of the computer, the other - because of the risk of fire or water damage - in a different location). If there is an additional backup in the cloud, it is unlikely you’ll experience data loss if the restoration of the files can be performed. Unfortunately, quite often even though consistent backups are performed, there are no checks done to the restoration process itself so it is only after a loss that one discovers that the backed up data may be corrupted or even non-existent.

It is recommend doing an incremental backup as it saves time and storage space and then additionally, from time to time, doing a full backup.

The 3-2-1 backup rule

To avoid data loss, the 3-2-1 backup rule should be adopted. This rule simply states that a user – whether it be a consumer or a company – should store precious data 3 times. In addition to the original data storage place – your computer, NAS, server or storage - you should have two other backups. These two should use different technologies, e.g. one could be on tapes, while the other one on the Cloud.

What kind of data should you back up?

Regardless of the system backup - files that have a personal or business value should be saved: holiday photos or videos of children, personal and business correspondence, invoices or thesis... if it’s important to you, it should be protected.

The easiest way is to use the Backup and File Manager. A much more convenient way would be to use of appropriate programmes. I would suggest you do not scrimp on this as you’ll be exposing the security of your critical data. It is better to purchase a well-known and professional programme, which gives you the option to ask questions and chat about any issues you may experience with real people. These tools have the functionality to back up individual disks, partitions and directories automatically at preset times. Also the checks of the backed up data is handled by these tools as well as being able to perform the restore itself.

A professional tool runs automatically after customising your settings. When using it for the first time a full backup of all built-in and attached disks is applied, thereafter incremental backups are regularly executed. And also a full backup will be done again after a predetermined time interval.

What happens if my backup fails?

Ontrack Data Recovery experts have seen quite a lot of data loss and recovery cases over the years due to problems with the client backup. Therefore they urge everyone to follow these tips:

  • Take time to invest in a backup solution and create a backup plan
  • Decide on the appropriate backup interval that suits your needs. (The longer the interval, the more chance that the data might not be up-to-date)
  • Make sure the backups run regularly according to the set schedule
  • Check the backup reports for error messages or a failed backup
  • Test and check the hardware, the backup software and the backups regularly – at least once every 3 months – to make sure that the hardware and software are working properly, the data is accurately mapped and the files are intact
  • And finally: do not panic when the backup does not work. Do not make any hasty decisions! If in doubt get in contact with a professional data recovery expert like Ontrack.




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