Digital Security: Backup & Recovery

Sep 11, 2014


We increasingly rely on our digital devices but that data is fragile. It can be lost instantly if the machine is stolen or damaged (fire, water, etc.) suffers mechanical failure or is infected by viruses or malware.

The solution? Use a comprehensive backup strategy and recovery plan to ensure continued access to your valuable data, ideally with both on-site and off-site (cloud) backups. An added bonus is secure sharing and collaboration.

A solid backup strategy involves both of the following:


On-Site Storage Appliance

These are devices that you connect to your network and use for file storage. For example all of the people on your network could use the same appliance for complete Apple Time Machine backups.

The benefit of an on-site storage/back-up appliance is that it lets you quickly backup huge amounts of data. For example you could completely backup (or create a perfect working safety copy) of a large 300GB volume relatively quickly, much faster than you could using an offsite storage solution like Dropbox. The reason is bandwidth - you can move data around your LAN (local area network, the small, fast network inside your home) much faster than you can move data over the internet.

The downside is that it doesn't protect you from everything. If the hard drive in your computer crashes your on-site storage appliance will be there for you. If however your house is robbed or suffers serious damage (fire, flood, etc.) it is very likely that you will lose everything including the storage appliance.



Synology (appliance) $500+

Drobo (appliance) $500+



Off-Site/Cloud Service

These are web based services that let you store data online and access it over the internet.

The advantage of an off-site storage service is that it is immune to the physical dangers that might destroy your computer and on-site storage device. If your house is broken into or destroyed by a natural disaster your data will still be safe with these services.

The problem is that moving large amounts of data to these services over the internet is slow and can be very expensive (it is easy to exceed the bandwidth your are allocated by your ISP and overage charges can be very high). This kind of storage is generally best for storing the files that are most important to you (photographs, work, etc.) and not for backing up entire volumes including operating system and application files.



Free, Paid Upgrades

Google Docs/Google Drive
Free, Paid Upgrades

Office 365 $60/year
Includes MS Office



Additional Suggestion

Anyone is capable of developing a “perfect” strategy but that only means they can’t see the holes in it. Always have a trusted, knowledgeable adviser review your plan and look for holes. Also - a backup strategy is only half the solution. The other half is the recovery strategy. How will you proceed in response to different types of data loss?

Related Content

This post was one of a series of five that discussed different aspects of digital security. It was based on content from a presentation at the 2014 SAF Annual Convention and posted in the wake of the recent celebrity photo hacking scandal in September after I heard from some people asking for more information. Other entries in the series appear below.

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