Survivalism & Self Sufficiency Topics > Home And Business Security

Data Backup Strategies

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While not a particularly sexy survival topic, we've all got data that is our responsibility to protect, from important business files to family photos and home videos.  I searched the site and couldn't really find a prior discussion, so I thought I'd start one since I've been thinking about it this last week.

I've heard that a good rule of thumb is to not consider your files sufficiently backed up until they exist in at least three separate forms, with at least one located off site from your computer.  That's the tough part.  I guess a decade ago it wasn't that hard to load stuff on CD-ROM or DVD discs and mail them to grandma's house, but multimedia files are so large that you'd have to send it to her on a couple-terabyte hard drive now.

Cloud storage sounded promising as an offsite backup mode, but downloading large files is tedious on a home broadband connection and uploading them in the first place is even worse.  It's one thing to store Office documents online at Google Drive, but that doesn't work well for those times when you need to move large media files, like all your family photos, in bulk.  Plus, what if you don't have an internet connection and you really need you're files? 

So, to satisfy the offsite portion of a good backup strategy, without waiting around for the internet, does that mean we're stuck packing a hard drive to and from separate locations, or sticking them in a good fire safe?  The company ioSafe makes several fire and waterproof external drive and NAS units, and they apparently actually survive 30 minutes of house fire and 3 days of submersion in salt water.  I thought it was gimmicky, but there's enough people doing torture tests on Youtube that I'm thinking it is actually the real deal.  The problem, though, is they are expensive, like 3-4 times the cost of their pedestrian counterparts.

The other issue that I always worry about is the uncertainty over hard drive failure.  A brand new drive could fail within three weeks, or it could last 8 years, but once you get to about 5 years you pretty much know you can't really trust much to it, anymore.  The way around this is having multiple backup drives, or expensive/complicated RAID systems with one or two disk redundancy built in.  But if you read much about those systems, you'll hear the line about how you need to back them up, too, because there might be an error in rebuilding the array after swapping drives.  At some point you just have to say my one backup of my computer, plus a backup of the backup, and maybe whatever I've managed to upload to the cloud, and that's it.  Otherwise you'll just go insane.

What are the rest of you doing?

I too have not yet come up with a good solution for offsite backup... that's a tough nut to crack when you're dealing with terabytes.

For now 3 drives of the same size, with a simple script that clones them from one to the others (using rsync) every night is my solution. I also never buy the same brand for all three or even two of them if I'm buying at the same time. I figure two identical drives purchased at the same time are more likely to fail at the same time. I've had plenty fail, but only one at a time.

Eventually (if I ever have enough extra money)I plan to set up a larger nas/raid array and run some sort of incremental backup software on a daily/weekly basis. Backups aren't just for harddrive failures, there's nothing worse than realizing a day too late that you stupidly deleted something you actually needed, and your wonderful backup script deleted it from your backup drives as well! Sometimes I keep old crappy drives around and use them as a forth point of backup that I manually run every now and then (less often than my normal backups) just in case something like that happens -- sometimes I get lucky.

Also on linux there are the smartmon tools which allow you to read the SMART self diagnostic data from the drive itself (power on hours, reboot count, error count, reallocated sectors count, temperature, etc) and keeping an eye on those numbers from time to time is a good way to know when you got one that's about to die or start corrupting your data. I don't know if something similiar exists for windows/mac but it probably does. The hard drive itself keeps track of those things internally, you just need the appropriate software to read it.

I use three of the 3 Terabyte USB drives and the on PC files are copied to the USB drive when I plug them in.
I have one connected and one in a fire box in my auto and one in my BOL (nearby)
and each time I go to the auto...I trade with the house drive and when I go weekly to the BOL,I trade with the auto's drive...
this way I get good rotation and none of the drives see much use as they alert me when in sync and I remove them from the PC which has TWO duplicate internal drives.

I keep all personal files,photos ,etc and a full set of install files for my software PLUS the DOCUMENTS folder from each of my in use PC's
so if both PC's fail or fry,I have in house,in auto,and in BOL backup. I buy NEW USB drives every 4 years or so and "OLD" drives go as archives to the BOL where I have plenty or room for storage in a secure,controlled environment.

My files are mostly personal documents and photos ,plus a lots of PDF and video collection and are of little value to anyone other than me...but I have time and have relied on a backup more than once due to remote scanning customer PC's for virus etc for businesses too small to pay an IT person ( a little side job I earn a bit from)

If you have terabytes of multimedia files you only need to back it all up one time to store off site, after that use an incremental approach to your backups (only the files that change or are added).
If you backup your multimedia files to the cloud, it will take a long time but once it's done only changed or added files are backed up.

At work my backup scheme is disk to disk, disk to tape, and cloud.


--- Quote from: artephius on August 02, 2015, 08:59:04 AM ---
For now 3 drives of the same size, with a simple script that clones them from one to the others (using rsync) every night is my solution. I also never buy the same brand for all three or even two of them if I'm buying at the same time. I figure two identical drives purchased at the same time are more likely to fail at the same time. I've had plenty fail, but only one at a time.

--- End quote ---

If you are on Linux, you can make those three drives into a RAID1, which is a mirror, using mdadm.  Even though it is called a mirror, you can have as many drives as you want in the mirror and it will still function with only one drive if all of the others fail.  Write speed will be the same but read speed will increase with more drives in the array.  Each drive would always be up to date.  Also, you can set up mdadm to email you when one of the drives fail.

The only problem is converting what you have now to the mdadm RAID1 array.  Best thing to do would be to buy at least one new drive and take one of the old drives and make a 2-way mirror and copy all of the data over.  Then take a second old drive and add it to the RAID1 array.  Then take the last remaining old drive and store it offsite.

Also, RAID, even a 3-way mirror, is not considered a backup.  Which I know you know, but just for others' reading pleasure.



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