“Well, we talked about a backup and I bought a new external drive but I’m not sure my files are really on there.”
This is almost invariably from a new or prospective client. Regardless of what backup program is used, it’s my considered opinion that 99% of a backup strategy must be how well you can recover from a catastrophe. These can be simple, such as a hard drive failing after a week of solid work, or they can be more complex such as a virus infection that spreads among multiple systems. Heck, they can even be actual loss from theft or fire. Regardless, if you don’t know how to check your backups and restore your data then you don’t really have a backup.
My backup program of choice is Dropbox but it’s not for everyone. There’s a bit of configuration and geekery required in order to get it configured so most find it transparent. Despite this, I feel Dropbox is second to none. It offers virtually real-time backup of the data it’s configured to handle. As soon as a file changes, Dropbox syncs only the changed bits. It also keeps the files synchronized between multiple computers (the original intent, really). Nothing is as fast at recovery as moving to another working computer with the most up to data data on it.
A common concern is how safe from prying eyes the online backups are. These are somewhat valid concerns so one must, as with any personal information, protect it with a strong password.
Macrium Reflect is another alternative which I like and have used personally for years. This fantastic program will make a “Xerox copy” of your entire hard drive in a single file called a drive, or system, image. This backs up not only your irreplaceable files but installed programs as well. Best used when you have a different hard drive on which to put this drive image, this sort of backup is generally too large for online storage. While some imaging programs offer storage online, it can take a ridiculous length of time to upload the data, let alone grab a restore in an emergency. It’s quite important to recover data in a timely fashion so you should ensure you have a local copy and only use online storage for true emergencies where no other option exists. As with Dropbox, Reflect allows you to password protect your backup image in order to keep it out of the wrong hands.
Whatever backup you choose, whether one of these or a different one, you should thoroughly test and document the restoration process. If you don’t, you might as well not have a backup at all. With any luck, you will never need the process but if you do, you’ll be glad that you took the precaution.
My on-site professional services are, of course, available to those in the Puget Sound area to assist with these and any other technology needs you may have. Phone support for those outside my local area can also be arranged.