When it comes to backing up servers in a business environment MBAs usually calculate the cost of remote data centers and the cost of replicating the data and the bandwidth needed between centers versus local tape machines and offsite storage and the cost of recovery.
When it comes to individual computers traditionally businesses usually do nothing and let the users fend for themselves. Recently, however, companies have been taking steps to protect their property by encrypting the entire hard drive for laptop users and backing up the equivalent of "My Documents" and leaving the rest of the computer as-is. One other corporate solution has been virtual computers running on computers in the datacenter.
In either the enduser or server case the business has a lot to lose and so a proper disaster recovery plan is essential.
The home user has gone virtually unnoticed until recently.
In the olden days we used to backup to floppy, then ZipDrives, JazzDrives and then CDROM and lately DVDROM. And at some point the cost of a tape drive was within the reach of the home user. Now data is in the TB range and the shelf life of a recorded DVD is limited. What now?
With the new cloud services like CrashPlan, DropBox, BackBlaze and such one can plan for the eventual outage... and they will happen. But when you have many hundreds of GB of data it can take months to seed one of these cloud services as I recently commented. And each of these services offer different features that might fit different scenarios.
So what is a home user to do?
The first thing a home user should do is decide what sort of disaster he is going to mitigate. If it's a simple B&E, the 100 year flood, software virus, or a theft from a hotel room. I definitely do not have all of the answers but this is going to work for quite a few of them.
- Encrypt the entire drive. It's a new feature in OSX Lion.
- Buy a drive that is the same size as your primary drive and use SuperDuper once a week to duplicate the primary drive. In a disaster you will be able to boot from USB or even exchange drives with little downtime. (this is harder and more expensive with SSD drives; think matchbook air.) Make sure the target drive is encrypted.
- Buy a second drive which is equal to or larger than your primary drive and use OSX TimeMachine to keep incremental backups. Make certain that you encrypt the target drive. (encrypting the target drive could take days over USB).
- Get a free account from DropBox and sync your documents folder. This should fit in the free account but if not the cost is fairly reasonable. Install a client on you smartphone for remote access too. This is not going to give you access to your photos but you can share docs etc.
- Finally, get an account with BackBlaze. These guys have a very novel approach to backing up your drive. Unlike CrashPlan that keeps incremental and versions, BackBlaze backs up your entire drive and deletes deleted files and old versions every 30 days. This is ideal for an offsite backup that supplements the above strategies.
The strategies I've outlined above will prevent any major disaster and if you're like us with many hundreds of GB of one of a kind family memories then this is the strategy for you.
Of course if I were an attorney I'd be warning you at this point that there are no guarantees and that acts of god are not included. But this is the human equivalent of giving it your best chance to survive. Or at least your data to survive.