World Backup Day
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World Backup Day, will you be an April Fool? (Part 1)

World Backup Day is celebrated globally on 31st March. The date is chosen to emphasise the importance of backing up all your important data before April Fool’s Day.

“They’re funny things, Accidents. You never have them till you’re having them.”
A.A. Milne, The House at Pooh Corner

Although written in 1928, AA Milne might just as well have been describing the horrible feeling when you realise that Excel Auto-Save isn’t enabled and the spreadsheet you’ve just spent hours working on has crashed … and you realise then that technology isn’t as robust as you thought it was.

There’s nothing new about the concept of ‘Data Backup’ – the precaution of keeping copies of important documents has been happening for hundreds, if not thousands, of years. (Four copies of the Magna Carta 📜 survive, although it is thought that perhaps over forty were produced).

The company that produced the ultimate Yuppie accessory of the 1980s – the Filofax – only survived, despite its offices being destroyed in the Second World War, because the secretary, Miss Grace Scurr, copied the details of key suppliers and customers into her own Filofax 📕which she always took home each evening. In our previous blog ‘It won’t happen to me…will it?’ we explored the various threats to our data and the impact data loss could have on businesses.
The biggest change, perhaps, is the fragility of electronic data – the equivalent of thousands of books can be destroyed in a flash. (no pun intended!)
It’s well worth considering those files and documents that are unique to your business. Which of these are either irreplaceable or would be exceedingly difficult or costly (in either time or money) to recreate? These are the core files that you must keep a backup copy of.

A ‘Belt and Braces’ rule for protecting this vital data is the 3-2-1 Backup Rule:
• Three Copies: Maintain three copies of your data—two for backups and one for the primary.
• Two Different Media: Save copies on two different types of media or devices.
• One Off-Site Copy: Ensure one backup copy is stored off-site to guard against disasters.


Globally, we now create over 1.8 zettabytes of data each year (1 Zettabyte is equivalent to 1 billion terabytes); it’s a shocking fact that nearly 30% of people have never backed up their personal data. That’s an awful lot of irreplaceable memories at risk, especially since it’s something that can be easily avoided.

Microsoft 365 users are a significant contributor to this volume, and a common misconception is that data stored in MS365 (OneDrive, SharePoint Online, Exchange Online etc) doesn’t need to be backed up. However, the Microsoft Service Agreement specifically addresses this issue with clauses including:

We strongly advise you to make regular backup copies of Your Content. Microsoft can’t be held responsible for Your Content, or the material others upload, store or share using our Services.

We recommend that you regularly backup Your Content and Data that you store on the Services or store using Third-Party Apps and Services.

Since, by using the MS365 service, you’ve implicitly agreed to these terms, you can’t say weren’t warned.

Admittedly, the Microsoft system is extremely resilient, and the risk of total data loss is small, but nevertheless, this puts the responsibility for data protection firmly back on the user.

Fortunately, a good variety of backup solutions are available which seamlessly integrate with MS365 and back up your data to secure platforms outside of the Microsoft storage platforms.

Backup options

 1. Physical USB Media

Typically, a USB stick or larger USB drive. These are both inexpensive and straightforward to use; connect the drive, drag, and drop the core files, and you have a copy that can be stored separately from the PC. The volume of data that can be stored is only limited by the size of the drive, and transfer rates (the time it takes to write and read the data between the PC and external drive) are relatively quick.
The disadvantage with these is that the USB drives are also vulnerable. Small ‘pen drives’ can be easily misplaced and lost, and larger drives are susceptible to physical damage if dropped or jolted.
Their universality is also a security risk. An unencrypted drive can be accessed from almost any PC (as government officials find out when they accidentally lose drives in taxis). Drives can be encrypted to remove this risk, but this both slows down data transfer rates and adds the risk of data becoming irrecoverable if the encryption password is lost

2. Network Storage Media NAS (Network Attached Storage) / Network Attached Storage)

These are larger data storage devices that are connected to a local network either via a physical connection or Wi-Fi. Unlike USB drives they are not portable, so eliminate the risk of becoming lost in transport. They are often located in a secure area and usually incorporate several drives to greatly reduce the risk of data loss due to hardware failure.
Like the USB drives, their storage volume is only limited by the drive capacity. They are ideal for long-term storage of large media files which need to be accessible ‘just in case.’
The downside to NAS is that being connected to a local (office) network means that the stored files are typically only accessible when the computer is connected to the same network. (Some manufacturers have utility software that makes the storage accessible over the internet, this does increase security risks.) Data transfer rates are dictated by the network speeds and connections; these tend to be lower than for directly connected USB devices, but faster than cloud storage options.

3. Cloud (Internet) Storage

‘Cloud’ is a generic term for almost any computer system or service that is located at a remote location and can be accessed from anywhere that has an internet connection. Dropbox, Box and OneDrive are all examples of cloud storage platforms. In many ways, they combine the benefits of the accessibility of network storage with the simplicity of a USB drive – but with built-in security.
From a cost perspective, many of the services have a free-of-charge basic level that is more than adequate for simple file protection. For Microsoft users, OneDrive is already built-in to the Windows operating system so is a seamless and simple configuration.
Although cloud storage may seem like an ideal solution, there are a couple of downsides that need to be taken into consideration. Firstly, in order to access files stored in the cloud, you will need an internet connection. (So not ideal if you’re trying to work from a holiday cabin in the depths of Northumbria). Secondly, the data transfer speeds are largely dependent on the quality of the connection. Many connections have ‘asymmetrical’ transfer rates, with download speeds several times faster than upload speeds. This isn’t usually a problem if you are downloading a media file that you’ve purchased, but it does become a painful experience if you’re trying to upload a video file over a slow connection.

Overall, our recommendation is that, as a bare minimum, Microsoft Office users should take advantage of:
• Microsoft OneDrive – whether the free-of-charge ‘personal’ account or the more comprehensive version that is included in most Microsoft 365 subscriptions.
• The ‘Auto-Save’ function that is built into Microsoft Office applications.
It might also be worth taking a ‘copy of a copy’ of any essential files on an encrypted USB drive if you’re not certain that you’ll be able to access a decent internet connection!
Interestingly, Microsoft has just launched their own MS365 backup product. Keep your eyes peeled for Part Two of this post where we dive a bit deeper into this latest offering and compare pricing models.
In the meantime, if you have concerns about your data and its safety, please get in touch to discuss your concerns. Hopefully, we can reassure you or suggest a solution that will meet your particular requirements.

 

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