Archive for November, 2009

The often forgotten security problem

Friday, November 20th, 2009

When you think of security backups do not usually come to mind.  However, this is one of the most important security practices.  Backup is not a security measure designed to keep your information private, rather it is a security practice to help ensure the availability of your data.

Almost all computers today have hard drives in them.  This is a tried and true storage device used to store large amounts of data.  What many people do not know is that all hard drives will fail eventually.  Hard drives are mechanical devices and they do wear out.  To give a general idea of how long a hard drive will last I will say this.  If your hard drive does not fail in the first few months you will most likely have at least a couple of years of use.  After those couple of years your chances of the drive failing continuously go up.  This is the number one reason why a consistent backup routine is very important.

Now that we know that a backup routine is a good idea you are probably wondering how often you should backup and how you should backup.  The answer to the first question is that it depends.  How often do you have new data on your computer that you do not want to lose?  Truly you should backup each time you create something that you do not want to lose.  However, that is not usually practical.  The main idea is how much data are you willing to lose?  If you have a number of things every week that would be bad to loose then backup every week.  If it is longer you may not have to backup as often.  My personal backup routine is the following: I back up my documents every Saturday, when I copy photos from my camera I back them up immediately, I have a copy of my music and videos (which do not change often) on two computers.

Now, how do you backup?  The most straight forward way to backup your computer is to manually copy everything to a second device (another hard drive, a CD, a flash drive, another computer).  This is the simplest, but requires the most work on your part.  You need to remember to do it and you need to start the process.  There is software that you can download or buy that you setup once and it will automatically backup specified folders on a specified basis.  This is easier for the user because they do not have to remember to manually backup things.  However, often times it can be forgotten and the backups are not checked to make sure that they work.  One free program that does a fairly good job of automatic backup is SyncToy from Microsoft.

Another important thing to remember with backups is that simply having a copy sitting next to your computer may not be enough. ¬†What would happen in the case of a natural disaster or a theft? ¬†This is where the idea of “off site” backup comes into play. ¬†It is a good idea to have a copy of the most important things in another location. ¬†Give a copy to a friend or family member to store for you or use an online backup service to store a copy of your data on a server that is not in your house. ¬†If you do not want others to be able to see your data you will want to make sure that the service that you choose encrypts your data on your computer before it is sent to them. ¬†This is often an advertised feature for this very reason.