2015-03-31 world_backup_day

Today, March 31, 2015, marks the fifth annual World Backup Day. Before you physically step back from wherever you’re standing, that’s not the kind of “backing up” that was intended by the founders of World Backup Day, who were simply a group of concerned Internet users, posting their thoughts and ideas about data security to the international Internet chalkboard Reddit. This backup is a noun, in this case meaning a second (or third, fourth, fifth, etc.) copy of all your digital files, which you store in a different location that the one where the files primarily live (i.e. you don’t keep a backup of your computer on that same computer; it must be stored on another machine or disk drive, whether that be a tangible drive that’s physically located in your home or office, or in the cloud).

Perhaps you’ve already stopped reading, because you thought to yourself, “This is ridiculous—in this day and age, who doesn’t backup their data?” But simply having a backup plan in place isn’t good enough anymore. To guard against the potential catastrophes caused by a total data loss, you also need to test your backup plan, to make sure it works the way it’s supposed to. A recent survey conducted by a well-known IT company revealed that 71% of those surveyed (mostly businesses) have a backup plan in place, but despite having a plan, data loss continues to be a vexing issue. Don’t just dismiss World Backup Day as something for geeks, or something that doesn’t apply to you or your business because you own an external hard drive, and already have your files backed up to it at least daily or weekly. Even worse, don’t think that World Backup Day doesn’t concern you because you use Dropbox…

“I solemnly swear to backup my important documents and precious memories on March 31st.”
I will also tell my friends and family about World Backup Day – friends don’t let friends go without a backup.

Despite being an indispensable file-syncing tool for both individuals and businesses alike, having Dropbox does not a backup plan make. Although Dropbox can—in a literal sense—create a backup of your files, Dropbox is not a backup service, but rather a file-syncing service. File synchronization means keeping up-to-date copies of the same document on two or more computing devices, usually with copies of one or more previous versions of the file (if any). When you change, add, or remove the file from one place, the same thing happens to the file in the other location(s). Data backup is having an exact copy of your files in another location. Although there are similarities between the two concepts, they aren’t the same, and you shouldn’t rely upon the so-called backup made by Dropbox (or Box, SugarSync, Google Drive, iCloud Drive, etc.) as a backup and replacement for your data in the event your primary computer or server is destroyed by fire, water, earthquake, or mechanical failure (not to mention theft).

The Internet is flooded with theories on how you should back up your data, but all of the respected theories share some iteration of the 3-2-1 concept, which is:

  1. Always keep (at least) three complete copies of your data. This means all data (aka clone), not just copies of your documents, images, and other media.
  2. Use at least two different formats for storing those copies. Format refers to the type of storage device, e.g., tape or DVD, hard disk drive (HDD), solid state drive (SSD), cloud, etc.
  3. At least one complete copy of your data stored “off site.” This means you should keep a copy either at another physical location, or stored securely in the cloud.

One final word on backup plans. There are a number of factors you must consider when creating a backup plan, and selecting a backup provider, the least important of those should be cost. Even if you could put a price on the value of your data, you can’t put a price on the downtime, countless lost hours, and loss of production caused by data loss & restoration. So on this fifth annual World Backup Day, take the pledge: “I solemnly swear to backup my important documents and precious memories on March 31st. I will also tell my friends and family about World Backup Day.” Because friends don’t let friends go without a backup.