This month’s tips all relate to the importance of backing up and how to do it effectively, efficiently, and securely.
The first tip: Back up your essential data (client and personal files). As a practical matter, you help yourself stay in business by also backing up your applications, because if you have a catastrophic failure of your computer (or more likely, its storage drive), that will enable you to get back up and running much more quickly than reinstalling all of your programs.
Second tip: Redundancy is not always bad! While we can probably agree that we should try to avoid redundancy in our writing, we should absolutely all agree that having redundant backups to your computer data can save your professional life. We recommend that you have at least three different backups of your data, that you keep them current, and that you keep them in different places. Within reason, more is better. By way of example, we keep multiple copies of our data and our software: data files are duplicated twice in physical files that live in the office, once more on a drive that leaves the office with us, and twice more in the cloud (more about that later). Clones of the entire computer drive exist in the office and in a drive that leaves the office, but not in the cloud, both because storing that much information in the cloud would take far too long to get up and downloaded to make it reasonable and also because program files are generally fairly easily replaced. By the way, try to make your redundancy stretch from physical backups to the cloud and include geographical redundancy in your planning to protect against losing all of your backups in the same disaster.
Third tip: Encrypt your data! You should make it a point to encrypt confidential data to ensure that it is protected. Encryption may not be required for common (nonconfidential data), but it is a good habit to get into encrypting all the files, so as to ensure you don’t miss one that you should encrypt. When you encrypt, use 256-bit encryption and a strong password or pass phrase. Remember that when it comes to passwords: (a) longer is stronger; (b) lower and upper case letters offer more security than one or the other; (c) using alphanumeric passwords makes them more secure; (d) adding some symbols to the alphanumeric characters strengthens the password even more.
Fourth tip: Embrace the Cloud! One of the easiest ways to have significant geographic redundancy in your backup is to store an encrypted and password protected copy of your files in the Cloud. Most commercial providers employ geographic redundancy themselves, giving you even more protection.
Fifth tip: Build your own Cloud storage facility! You can still get in on the ground floor of Cloud storage. No building code requirements; no permit requirements; very little effort and very little cost required. Many manufacturers have come up with devices that allow you to access them through the Internet and up- or download data to them from virtually anywhere you can get Internet access. One of our favorites in the field, Drobo, makes a device called the Transporter that allows you to stake your claim in the Cloud, homestead it, and operate your own Cloud storage facility with “plug and play” simplicity. You can get one Transporter or several.
Transporter Private Cloud comes without storage ($159) or with 500GB ($225), 1 TB ($250), or 2TB ($343).
If you get one, you have a place to store your data in the Cloud and can access it and even synchronize it among various devices. If you get more than one, they will talk to each other and back each other up, giving you geographic redundancy. You can locate them as close or as far apart as you like. We like having one in the office and one at home. Some people have set up another Transporter in a different state to give themselves greater redundancy. It is just as easy to set one up in San Francisco and another in Seattle, or Denver, or New York (or anywhere else you choose) as it is to set up one in your home and another in your office. All it takes is getting the hardware to the location, plugging it in, and connecting it to the Internet. Once you have done that, all devices tied to the same account can access the data on the Transporters, and the linked Transporters will set up the required protocols to securely back up to each other. The basic Transporters (Transporter Sync) come without memory built in and cost about $100 each.
Transporter Sync comes without storage ($110).
You then have to get a separate hard drive for each Transporter and connect it to the Transporter (plug it in). If you get the Transporter Private Cloud, you do not have to plug in a hard drive because it has its own storage space. Both devices work the same way. The only differences are price, shape, and the inclusion of built-in storage or the need for a separate purchase.