I must apologize right off the bat for telling you something you already know, but I must also rant about having to do this over and over again. Dave’s Computer Tips preaches it, I rant about it, and any computer-related site worth its salt has bemoaned the point until, it seems, readers have become deaf and numb to the entire issue– backups.
By performing backups on a regular schedule, all things nasty can be avoided: no Rootkits, no Ransomware, no virus, Trojan, eMail scam, or any form of Malware can get its nasty tendrils into your computer in any sense of permanency. Your computer system becomes bullet-proof. You no longer have to depend on an endless number of security “layers” protecting you from Black Hat Hackers, which, by the way, seem to gain ground at a regular pace. The truth of the matter is that the Good Guys (AV programs, firewalls, etc) are only barely keeping up with the hi-tech-enabled crooks “out there”. Some may properly argue the Good Guys are losing the battle after all is said and done.
There are also corporate idiots in the mix. It befuddles me to no end how major corporations can lose data. They are paying for some of the most expensive, supposed top-notch security experts in the field, and still they don’t seem to know about something as basic as a simple backup. I will never understand this lapse in elementary thinking.
Consider this– I get nicked by ransomware today, but I have a backup representing my computer state as it was yesterday. So, what is the problem? I revert back to yesterday’s state and beat the bad guys to the punch, figure out how they got in, and negate the whole issue. No harm, no foul. My customers are happy. I am happy. And hopefully, we catch the bad guys in the process.
Is this so basic a concept as to elude the brightest minds in the security industry?
The Inevitable Phone Call
And yet, it happens –the inevitable, mournful phone call– the one whose voice on the other end of the line is telling me they have lost all their data and don’t know what to do. Well, I can certainly tell you what you should have done, but what to do now? That’s a whole different ball of wax. Yes, it may be possible to recover all or some of those irreplaceable family pictures, or perhaps those thousands of music files, or all those spreadsheets that your very livelihood depends upon, or anything else you might find necessary to your computer life. The opposite may also be true– I may not be able to help you at all.
If the data you’ve lost is worth the cost, it may end up being in the thousands of dollars up front without any guarantee of full recovery, and you won’t even be able to keep your original drive in the process. Think about that for a moment. This tragedy can be avoided.
It Doesn’t Have To Happen… Ever
Going back to the original point of this article, creating backups is a necessary reality of today’s computer experience. If you don’t know how to back up your important computer information, then you are behind the times and must seriously reconsider your security strategy. In fact, if you don’t have a backup schedule set up, you have no strategy in place at all. In that case, please don’t call me asking for help you. I will show little compassion and might not be able to help you at all. A regular, scheduled backup regimen is such a basic concept these days that anything less is surely asking for trouble.
Believe me, the day you wish you had made a backup will come. It has happened to me, and I am eternally thankful that I had a backup at hand. No one is immune.
Backups vs Copies
Copies. It’s all about making copies. Maybe the term ‘backups” is what throws people off the idea to begin with. If so, let’s just call them “copies”. Make copies of everything. Keep them in different places. Make multiple copies. Keep doing that until you have so many copies you can’t remember how many copies you have, or where you’ve stored them.
The concept is the same no matter where you store the copies. If you don’t like the idea of storing your copies “in the cloud”, then store them on floppies, or external hard drives. It doesn’t matter as long as you have current, multiple copies of everything.
Note: There is no good reason not to store some things “in the cloud”. If it is sensitive, it can be encrypted, and it can still be done for free. The point is that it becomes an off-premises storage medium in case of fire or some other natural disaster.
I suspect that many of you think backups are a real pain in the neck. The truth of the matter is that, once they are set up, you won’t have to remember they are happening in the background at all. You simply have to take that first step. Get a backup program that you feel comfortable with. Many quality solutions are available free of charge. Try different ones until you are satisfied with the results. Schedule it to create backups on a daily basis, and forget about it. It will be the mother hen you didn’t know you needed, incubating you, until that fateful day when you enter the real world.
If you are trying to back up sensitive data, then encrypt it beforehand. This may give you some peace of mind before trying “the cloud” solution. If you absolutely don’t trust “the cloud”, then consider DVDs or USB thumb drives as an alternative, but keep them off-site in case of the aforementioned “Acts of God”.
Just do it! And start today– tomorrow may be too late. Vultures. The Black Hats are circling…
There is a simple set of rules to follow where backups are concerned:
- Keep three copies of your data – original plus two backup copies
- Make a backup on different media – two storage types; the odds of failure are greatly reduced
- Make a backup for off-site storage – this can be anywhere except where the original copy is located
I’ll tell you what I do:
- I have a program create a backup to a separate hard drive on a daily basis (Acronis is the backup program I use)
- Every week, I copy those backups to an external drive (which I don’t keep connected to the computer all the time); by keeping it disconnected, it is immune to attacks on the main computer and the backups are safe
- Every month, I copy the most recent backups to a thumb drive; a third device of a different form of media
- During this entire time, those backups are being sent to OneDrive, a Cloud Storage Service provided by Microsoft (offsite solution)
This system follows the 3-2-1 rules. I have multiple backups on different media including an off-site copy. I set this system up years ago and have basically forgotten about it, but in the event I need it someday, it is there, waiting to protect me from all the nefarious activities promulgating on the very dangerous internet.
I know this post won’t cause everyone to begin a proper backup schedule, but hopefully it will cause a few of you to rethink your position. I will continue to preach this sermon until Kingdom comes, or until I die, whichever may happen first. I will leave it up to you where you place your bets.
The bottom line here is this: as you show love to the living rather than to the dead, please make backups of your system before you regret not having done so,
Update: In all fairness to Leo Notenboom, the author of the original concept for this article, I must give him proper credit. You can read his article here: This Doesn’t Need to Happen
I read his newsletter regularly and get many ideas for DCT articles from his and other newsletters I subscribe to.