So I had a bit of a minor disaster this week. The external SSD I was running my computer off of failed on me. Thankfully Mac OS X makes it super simple to create a backup using Time Machine, but alas that backup had also failed and I could not restore my files that way. If I hadn’t taken further steps to protect my data I’d be down that certain profane creek. Unfortunatly though, during this incident I did lose the blog post I was writing, and seeing as I have to rewrite this anyway I’ve decided to cover my backup setup and how I protect myself from a digital catastrophe.
It’s one thing to lose personal data, that is something I’ve experienced and wouldn’t wish on anybody. While that is deifnitly awful, it’s a totally other thing to lose data that makes your living. I have several gigabytes of client files that would end my business if I were to lose them. If you’re a freelancer, you need a good backup system more than anything.
The first and foremost, you need a good local backup. You want to have at least one backup next to your computer. While it’s not going to be the safest of your backups, it’s going to be the most convienient. If you find yourself in a situation where your computer crashes, a local backup is going to get you back on your feet much faster.
While Time Machine is a great option on the Mac, newer versions of Windows also have built-in backup software solutions. There are also a variety of other options for both platforms if you want something a little more fiddly, but generally the built-in solutions will work fine.
Once you have the software you just need at least one external hard drive that’s at least the same size as your computer’s built-in drive. My general rule is twice the size as this will also give you room to perform incremental backups, which provides an easy way to revert files you accidentally deleted or changed.
Local backups are fantastically convient, but not always the safest method. Off-site backups are a must for a much better level of safety. There are a few different solutions for off-site backups, but the one I use the online backup service Backblaze. There are several other online backup services, and they make it very easy to create and maintain a secure backup.
However, some people prefer to have a series of external drives that they back up to in very much the same way they do with their local backups. Instead of leaving them in a drawer or somewhere near the computer though, they take the hard drives and leave them in various secure locations like a friend or relative’s house, or a safe deposit box.
Having an off-site backup will protect you from localized issues ranging from a power surge knocking out all your electronics to a fire or natural disaster.
I like to have a contingency plan that will ensure I can access any file I might need immediate access to, and this is where cloud syncing services come in. I use iCloud to sync my contacts, calendars, and 1Password vaults and be able to potentially access them from any machine.
Any projects I’m working on, along with any and all important client files are stored in Dropbox. This gives me immediate access to any documents I need to have easy and direct access to. If my local backup fails I like to have faster access to these files than an online backup service can provide.
Of course like any of these pieces, the contignecy plans can fail. But the point of having so many different parts is redundancy. If one piece fails you have the others to fall back on. All these parts don’t come cheap, but the cost is nothing compared to what will happen to your business if you lose all your data. If I only had one backup my data would be gone right now.