The Perfect Backup: Steps to Ensuring Backup Success

Thursday, August 18, 2016 by Kathrin Brekle

Whether smartphone or tablet, Windows PC or Mac:  In today's time a proper backup is a duty, at least of the most important data.  Accidents can occur, thieves are on the move and data theft in electronic assistants pile up.

We don´t want to propose single programs here, but offer an overview of what has to be respected to be on the safe side with the backup process. Since it's not only about the actual backup, it also has to be guaranteed that the restore really works.  And this is unfortunately not always the case, for example, with the system-internal backup tool of Windows.

Generally speaking, a good backup is not a single but a double (or triple) backup. You should not store your backup on the same hard disk that has to be backed up.  It is recommended to use an external (or better, two) hard drives in the appropriate size to a store the backups.  Appropriate size essentially means double the size of the hard disk to be backed up.  The external drive should be separated from the computer after the backup, as some types of malware not only infect the actual device but can also spread to peripheral devices or even the connected network.

A reasonable 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 - at a different location).  If there is an additional backup in the cloud, data loss can rarely happen if a restore can be performed without any problems. It happens quite often that consistent backups were performed, but while attempting a restore you find out that the data is corrupted - or non-existent.

What backup method is recommended?

It's recommended to save a complete image after using a new hard drive or re-setting the computer system.  In that case it's always possible to play the data back to its original state (also on a different disk).  If the backup is performed consistently, you can always rely on accessing a running system in a very short period of time. Whether you perform a complete backup or an incremental backup lies in your decision.  We recommend doing an occasional incremental backup (which saves time and storage space)  at the time a full backup is created.

What kind of data should be backed up?

Regardless of the system backup, files that are of personal or business value have to be saved: holiday photos or videos of children, personal and business correspondence, invoices, etc.  The easiest way is to do this with the normal backup and file manager.  A much more convenient way is the use of appropriate programs.  In this case you should not try to save money at the expense of data security. It's better to purchase a respected and professional program, which gives you the possibility to ask questions and communicate about any issues with real people.  Such tools have the functionality to back up individual disks, partitions and directories automatically at preset times.  Also, the review of the backed up data is handled by those tools in addition to performing a restore.

A professional tool runs automatically after implementing the requested setting.  When using it for the first time, a full backup of all built-in and attached disks is applied.  Incremental backups are regularly executed thereafter. Also, a full backup is prepared again after a predetermined time interval again.

Which media type is recommended?

DVDs are not a very good choice for long-term storage, since they can only store a small amount of data and are very susceptible to damage or external influences such as sun or heat. Even USB sticks are rather unsuitable, since the built-in chips can be of questionable origin, which could cause data loss or corruption.  Magnetic storage ( HDD) are superior to flash memory ( SSD, USB stick) when it comes to a required data recovery later as a data recovery with SSDs is a much more complex challenge.

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

In the business field, a data storage on magnetic tape is usually common.  Magnetic tapes can store a large amount of data, are inexpensive and very durable – backup tapes can well be readable at least for 30 years.  However, the tape drives are not cheap, and the handling is much more cumbersome with magnetic tapes as with external hard drives. Along with using tape media, a regular check of the readability of the stored data is essential and should be included in the backup plan.