why you should always have backups

Why You Should Always Have Backups

Imagine a world where everything went right the first time. You got a teddy bear at the claw machine with your first coin; you tinkered with your website and no bugs were created in the process; you put the flash drive into your PC in one try. Yes, we’d be technological gods if we got it right all the time, but we don’t. For that reason, you should always have backups. Not just for your data (which is important), but for practically everything else as well.


Contents

  1. What is a backup?
  2. Different risks to your data
  3. Benefits of backing up your data
  4. Ways to backup your data safely

What is a backup?

A backup is when you store or retain data in a separate location to where the data is originally held. So, if you have most of your files on your PC, you might have a backup of those same files on an external hard drive. That way if anything happened to your PC your files would not be at risk.

Let’s create some context for our problem. Most of us have encountered the dreaded lost Word document after putting in hours of work only to find it wasn’t saved. That sinking feeling as dismay enveloped you really put into context what’s important in life: saved documents, for one.

Having some sort of backup where the information could be re-accessed not only gets you back what you lost, but bathes you in that sweet sense of relief no poet could justly describe. It’s an emotional rollercoaster you would rather avoid (trust us).

This backup plan (excuse the pun) extends not just to your Word documents and spreadsheets, but to all of your data. That includes business and client data, server data, critical application data, website data, photos, videos, music, films, and whatever other memories and files you may have on your device or online. We know you’d be gutted to lose that one album you reference when making fun of your friends. Backing up your data ensures you’ll always be able to threaten them with the embarrassment of that one time they tried karaoke.


Different risks to your data

Losing all your data isn’t just you forgetting to save a file, or accidently formatting a hard drive. It may include those but your data disappearing into the ether could be completely out of your control. Let’s take a look at some of the common ways we can lose our data.

Human error

Let’s start off by accepting our role in how data loss can come about. Actually, short of a natural disaster, most ways data loss occur is because of how we operate regarding our data or devices.

Some of the most common ways we influence data loss is:

  • Spilling coffee on our devices
  • Testing or implementing new changes on our website
  • Unintentionally wiping hard drives
  • Making incorrect changes to file systems
  • Not having the proper training to handle data or how it should be stored and recorded
  • Unintentionally overwriting or deleting files

If you’re really unlucky you might total your laptop by standing up and forgetting your headphones are still plugged in, dragging the machine to it’s doom.

A simple way to avoid most of these is to limit the exposure your data could have to these adverse events. For example, you could have your device on a platform so if you spill coffee, you know you’re in the clear. You could also ensure you or your staff are properly trained in data storage. And we don’t mean copying your files onto a flash drive you keep in your draw. Take the time to learn how to properly retain data.

Hardware failure

Sometimes our PCs pack up and so goes with it everything we had stored on the poor device. Not necessarily something we can prevent as hard drives reach their life expectancy over time, same as we do. Like with humans, they may fall prey to unusual body malfunctions earlier than expected, sometimes as early as the first year of being used.

A Backblaze table showing the rate at which different hard drives fail over time
A Backblaze table showing the rate at which different hard drives fail over time

What we can do from our side is ensure the hardware is taken care of.

  • Don’t allow too much dust to build up
  • Don’t drop or slam the hardware
  • Do whisper empty promises that you’ll never say how slow and useless the machine is.

The last one is unverifiable but it can’t hurt. And if your device shuts down randomly or freezes, hope and pray that your local data is secure if you don’t have backups stored elsewhere.

A Ponemon Institute report showing the effectiveness of security in a company pre/post Covid
A Ponemon Institute report showing the effectiveness of security in a company pre/post Covid

Phishing, viruses & malware

The preferred method of attack for online criminals, viruses and malware can cause a host of issues if not checked. Not just to your data either, but to your company, website, or device as a whole.

A Netwrix report showing different security incidents in the past 12 months (from 2021)
A Netwrix report showing different security incidents in the past 12 months (from 2021)

Email phishing attacks and malicious links can catch anyone off guard, putting the entire system at risk. This means that besides being able to control your data, criminals could threaten to dump your data online if you don’t pay up. They could also block access to your own data depending how bad a hack is.

Your best bet is to keep your antivirus updated and either train yourself or offer training on how to spot these phishing emails if you own a company.

Natural disasters

Let’s not forget Mother Nature’s impact on our data. While many of our best efforts at avoiding data loss from a human perspective can work, Mother Nature has a way of keeping us humbled. A rogue fire or flood can level thousands of gigabytes of data with little remorse. Obviously, because as far as we know fires don’t have feelings.

One of the best ways to avoid falling victim to Mother Nature’s wrath is to ensure you have backups that’re in a different location. So, if a fire happens in your office for example, you have your data stored somewhere offsite. Fortunately, South Africa is not prone to many natural disasters, but if your data is stored in high-risk areas this is something you might want to take into consideration.

Theft

Unfortunately, if you live in South Africa, the chances of your device getting physically stolen is also high. House break-ins make up the majority of crimes, and too many people have their phones opportunistically snatched at a restaurant or get mugged on the street. You don’t want all your hard work going out the door.


Benefits of backing up your data

Like we mentioned earlier, avoiding any of these disasters or mistakes can be out of our hands, but preparation for them certainly isn’t. Having a backup of your data ensures that you can pick up where you last left off (or at least pretty close to it) if the worst happens.

A Netwrix report showing the most common consequences of a data breach
A Netwrix report showing the most common consequences of a data breach

Some of the immediate benefits of backing up your data is:

  • Your data is secure. You get to keep your data in the case of an accident which, in a sense, makes it as if said accident never happened, at least from a data perspective. Think of it as being able to load from your last saved point in a game. Any mistakes you made up until that point can be completely wiped and you get to go again, only this time you can learn from your mistake.
  • You can easily recover your data. Client databases, business documents, website databases, server applications, all irreplaceable, priceless data can be restored in no time, however and wherever you prefer. All your data is easily accessible to you from your backup, which of course saves a lot of time.
  • Peace of mind. Knowing that your data is secure in the event of a breach or accident allows you to skip along merrily knowing that you can revert to basking in data glory once more. Essentially, it’s giving your data unlimited lives and making it immortal in a certain sense.
  • It can save your business or website. Maintaining a business or website takes a lot of work. Not just producing your product or service, but the work that went into making everything around that run smoothly. Having backups mean that all that hard work won’t be in vain.

Ways to backup your data safely

Fortunately, like the numerous ways in which data can be lost, data can also be stored and backed up. Let’s get into some of the popular ways to keep your data alive.

Keeping it in the cloud

You won’t be the only one floating on cloud 9 in the event of data loss if you use this method. It’s one of the more common ways of securing your data and has nothing to do with the condensed water vapour floating in the sky.

You basically store your data on a server or hard drive in a remote location that you can access via the internet. In a sense you are storing it on a mega hard drive, just one that is not owned by or physically accessible to you.

A Netwrix report displaying what data organizations prefer to store in the cloud
A Netwrix report displaying what data organizations prefer to store in the cloud

The perks of this method means your data is in an offsite location and is encrypted so no one else can steal it. You can also access it at any time. The downside is that you need the internet to access your files and you also have a cap on how much space you can use when using only free services.

If you’d like your data to be a part of our backup plan, take a look at our cloud backup plans. We give you 20 GB free for 6 months!

HOSTAFRICA cloud backup price table
HOSTAFRICA cloud backup packages

Using an external hard drive

A bit archaic, almost, but definitely gets the job done. Backing up on an external means you’ll be saving data for one device at a time, so this method is less ideal for businesses. Imagine IT going around the office asking everyone to backup their PC at the end of the week.

It would work well for personal use, however, as you’ll likely have one or two devices that need data to be stored. It’s pretty easy to use and with some software updates you needn’t worry about your data.

The downside is that like all hard drives, they can reach their life expectancy and themselves fall prey to data loss. If you use a hard drive, they’ll usually be close by as well, which could be a problem in the case of a disaster.

Using a USB flash drive

Perhaps playing it a bit fast and loose with data storage, but it can also work if you’re in a pinch. What’s good about using a flash is that it’s portable, affordable, and most importantly comes in a range of novelty shapes.

They generally won’t be too big on the storage side compared to a hard drive, but they’ll suffice. The downside of these critters is that they can be misplaced easily and are susceptible to breaking. Not the storage per se, but just being smashed if they fall of get sat on.

We wouldn’t suggest these as a long-term solution.

Storing data on a NAS device

This method is better suited to businesses. NAS stands for network-attached storage. It’s a server that’s dedicated to saving data and can operate wired or wirelessly. It’s pretty handy in a business setting because it can be accessed like any other drive on your device and be set for automatic updates. It can also backup several computers at once which saves IT a bunch of time.

Take a look at our dedicated servers and cloud virtual machines to set this up. If you already have servers with us and would like to back those up, we recommend buying our cloud storage instead to ensure your backed up data is off-site (in a different place from your original data)


Conclusion

So, now you know the importance of a plan B (for backup). Don’t wait until it’s too late, better safe than sorry.


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