Data Backup Part I — Is Your Data Safe?

by MikeM on February 7, 2009

The amount of data people generate and store continues to grow rapidly. The importance of keeping that data from being permanently lost also continues to grow. The good news is that there are many different solutions for protecting and backing up all that data. Regardless of the method you use for data backup, the key is to make sure you use your data backup solution on a regular basis. And that you periodically check your backed up data to make sure it is complete and current and that your data is safe.

Data Backup: “Data Loss, It Won’t Happen To Me”

When it comes to data loss some people are eternally optimistic and believe “it will never happen to me.”  Right up until they hear the pronounced clicking sounds coming from their hard drive alerting them to the fact that the drive has suffered a serious mechanical failure and their data is likely gone for good. Or until receiving repeated Blue Screens when starting their computer. Or their computer goes missing at the airport.

A useful starting point for thinking about data backup is by asking yourself “What if all my data permanently disappeared tomorrow?” What would be the impact of that happening? At the end of the day, your data is generally worth far more than your computer hardware and software. While some data can be recreated if it is lost, the process of recreation can be a time consuming and expensive endeavor.

Some data cannot be recreated when lost. Those 2,457 digital photos of family and friends taken over the last four years cannot be reproduced if the files are lost due to crashed hard disk drive, a computer virus, flooding, fire or theft. For a small business the impact of lost data can have a direct impact on profitability. In fact a 2005 study by The Gartner Group, a major market research firm, found that “50% of small businesses that experience a major data loss go out of business within a year.”

Data Backup: Costs of Data Recovery

It’s much cheaper to pay for a data backup solution than to pay for data recovery. A standard 500 GB external hard disk drive costs less than $150 with basic backup software included. Online data backup services range from free to $10 per month and up. For a less automated solution, a DVD+/- RW disk costs about 50 cents.

The cost of recovering data from a malfunctioning hard disk drive can be thousands of dollars, and that’s assuming the data is even recoverable. The cost of recovering data from a functioning but corrupt drive (repeated Blue Screen, etc.) can be several hundred dollars or more. With no guarantees on recovering all data.

Data Backup Strategies: Having a Second Backup

Having and using a regular data backup solution is a good thing fro keeping your data safe. Having a second backup copy that is kept in a different physical location is also highly recommended. This secondary backup could be an online backup service, a backup to another computer on your network, or simply burning your most important files to a DVD periodically and storing it somewhere away from your computer. Be sure to check out our post Online Data Backup Services – Factors to Consider When Choosing for more insights about online data backup.

A story about data lost by movie producer/director Francis Ford Coppola from a couple years ago illustrated this point. Mr. Coppola was in Argentina for an extended period of time working on a movie. He had brought his computer with him along with his external hard disk backup device. His computer and his backup device both contained copies of unique family photos, movie scripts and other documents not stored anywhere else. One night someone broke into the house where he was staying and stole Mr. Coppola’s computer and, you guessed it, his backup drive. So even though he backed up his data regularly and had two copies, it was all gone in an evening.

In future posts I’ll look at backup strategies, devices, services and options. In the meantime, if you aren’t backing up your data it is time to get started. If you do have a backup solution make sure you are using it on a regular basis.

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