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Comparing External RAID Housings

The Perfect Backup Plan Isn't Possible

Manufacturers of back-up systems will probably throw their hands up in horror at the thought of storing data back-ups on hard drives. This is not just because they fear a loss of revenue; they have a number of justifiable qualms. After all, a hard drive is a hybrid product made up of electronic and mechanical components. The mechanical components are extremely complex and sensitive to magnetic and physical influences—anyone who wants to destroy a hard drive only needs to drop it, or bring it near a strong magnet.

To make a long story short, data stored on hard drives is by no means safe. The option of using hard drives as backup media is a possibility for us purely on the basis of cost and performance. Backing data up to an additional hard drive is not a replacement for a proper backup strategy. Hard drive backups are best used as a first stage, short-term backup option.

Backup strategies

Generally speaking, data backups should be made on media that can be physically removed from the host system. It’s no surprise that the most popular products are tape systems like streamers, disk solutions like DVD or Blu-ray, and similar systems that use replaceable data carriers. The more flexible the read method a data carrier has—DVDs are ideal—the simpler it is to restore the data should the worst case scenario ever occur.

People who want to be extra safe make backups of their important data in cycles. A daily backup made seven days of the week, or at least after every working day, is one option, and weekly backups is another. The best solution is to combine the two, making seven backups for each day of the week, and also saving backups for the past four weeks. Older backups can be archived at greater intervals.

The execution and granularity of the backups will depend on the importance of the data. For home computers, a complete data backup once a week, combined with archiving the most important data approximately once a month, is often sufficient. It is important to ensure separation of the backup media from the system, from the power supply, and ideally the location to ensure that lightening strikes, storms, fires or floods won’t affect your data.

You should also attempt a restoration every once in a while. The greatest backup system in the world is useless if you are unable to reliably restore your data.