First off, data is not backed up up unless it is in 3 or more separate locations! (with one being offsite)Backup
is a pretty simple topic. You have your precious data such as photos, videos, documents, music, and even just program files and game saves on your PC and you don't want to lose it right? Well, if so then you should always backup of your data in some sort of way.
There are two categories of backup: system backup and file backup. A system backup is when you copy everything verbatim on the OS hard drive onto an external storage medium, including the operating system, applications and data. If the drive fails, the computer can be restored to its former state.
File backup copies only data files onto an external storage medium. If the drive fails, the OS and applications have to be re-installed.
I like to do a mix of both of these to cover my butt in case of anything. You will see what I do exactly in the following steps.
RAID is not designed to replace a proper backup solution, it's there to protect against drive failures with minimal to no down time. I don't understand why some people think that just because different RAIDs such as RAID 5 or RAID 6 can take a drive loss and still maintain data integrity that their data is backed up. It simply is not. Data needs to be in multiple places to actually be backed up, not just a single RAID volume in a single PC/location.RAID arrays do NOT protect against:
- Boot Sector Corruption
- Human error (deleting files by mistake)
- RAID controller/software failure
- Fire, flood, or other calamity such as an EMP in your PC...
- Theft, hacker attack, or other offensive action
- Multiple disk failures and Unrecoverable Read Error
- Data corruption
However, using RAID IN your backup is totally different then using RAID AS your backup. A cool thing you can do is use a box with hot swap bays to hold your drives to easily swap out a drive if one fails for large arrays. Also, you can set up drives as hot spares which means they are just in the system's RAID array sitting waiting for a failure so it can automatically integrate into the array so you don't have to do it manually.
The way I see it there are three steps in this.
- Organize and choose what you need to backup
- Plan out our backup routine
- Choose a program or programs that will help you accomplish your plan, configure as needed, and test your backup routine
Okay, so to get started you should first make sure your data is nice and organized so everything will be easier to backup and track down throughout the process. I've seen countless systems where there are hundreds of folders all over the place and nothing is organized one bit. It is the most annoying thing to deal with for me when I have to backup a system as I am used to having all my stuff organized neatly. The way I have my data set up does as follows:
- For the OS drive I have a 128GB SSD. On the OS drive is just my OS, drivers, and programs. No actual important data except for the program settings and what not.
- For the rest of my data, it is on various drives in my system. My secondary drive basically holds all my data, it is a RAID 0 array. I have a single folder on this drive. I call it "Main Data." Within it I have my main sub-folders.
Secondary drive layout:
- My Computer, "D:\" ->
- "Main Data" folder ->
- Backup (Main storage for OS backup images here so when I do my file backup my OS backup is backed up too.)
- Dropbox (This also contains my Documents folder, Dropbox backups my important docs via cloud storage all the time.)
- Miscellaneous (Just where I have old data, program installers, ISOs, etc.)
- Saved Games
- Next, I have my 1TB scratch disk for my temp storage and random stuff. I have the same basic layout as my secondary drive. I have a main folder called "Scratch," which I have branch out into other sub-folders for what ever I want.
- Next, I have my 256GB SSD for my Virtual Machine storage. I have the same basic layout as my other drives. I have a main folder called "VMs," which then branches out into other sub-folders for my virtual machine data.
- Finally I have my Backup drive in my system. This drive is where all the organization pays off. I have a main folder called "Backup. This folder contains a few different sub folders for my various backup needs.
Backup drive layout:
- My Computer, "Y:\" ->
- "Backup" folder ->
- Bookmarks (Bookmarks from FireFox in my Appdata folder sync to here)
- Main Data (Main Data folder syncs to here)
- VMs (VM folder syncs to here)
- Scratch (Sratch drive folder syncs here)
- Lightroom (All my lightroom settings in my Appdata folder sync here)
- Sticky Notes (The sticky notes file in my Appdata folder saves here for backup)
- VirtualBox (The ".VirtualBox" folder in my User folder syncs here to keep my settings backup)
How to plan out a good backup routine:
So now that you've seen how my system is organized go ahead and organized your stuff how you like and we can begin out next step, building a backup routine. I like to do a simple automated backup routine for my data. I don't ever have to manually backup my stuff ever again! No more copying, pasting, or deleting bunches of folders back and forth, just do a one time setup and I'm good to go from then on and my mind is at ease. Backup vs Redundancy vs Archiving:
The technology overlap between backup, redundancy and archiving can often lead to confusion, but each has a different role to play in streamlining and safeguarding data. Backups essentially create a second copy of data at specific points in time, ideally keeping multiple historic copies. Redundancy establishes a straight copy of an entire system, ready to take over if the original system fails. Backup offers a certain level of redundancy, and redundancy a basic level of backup, but neither are stand-alone solutions.
Archiving makes a primary copy of selected data with the aim of retaining data in the long-term. Not all of the data contained in a backup will ultimately end up in an archive so archiving is rarely an adequate backup solution in itself but as a complementary approach, it can considerably optimize the data storage process.
Most backup strategies rely on a combination of backup, redundancy and archiving. An important factor to bear in mind when planning a backup schedule is prioritization of data. Not all data is created equal and a tiered backup strategy that restores the most critical applications first will get you back in business faster and cut data storage costs.There are various locations to backup your data to. You can backup to:
- Drive in your system
- External or portable drive
- A dedicated NAS or Server
- Cloud storage
Figure out what will work for you. The easiest thing to do is to just back a second drive, internal or external, and use that for your backup storage. Make sure it is larger than you need so you don't run out of space any time soon!I have my system automatically do a:
- Full system backup of my OS drive bi-monthly keeping the last four system images and archive the original system image from when I just installed Windows
- File backup every night to my secondary drive in my PC, my documents folder is also synced with DropBox 24/7
- Bi-monthly file backup to my server's RAID 5 array
- Monthly backup of important files to an external away from my house...I swear it is not excessive!
How to accomplish your backup plan:
Now that you have all your stuff organized, your plan on backup set up and ready you need to figure out what ways you are going to accomplish your goal, what programs are you going to use and how are you going to set them up?
There are a ton of programs out there. Feel free to try them and see how you like 'em. Personally I use FreeFileSync for my folder backup and Acronis True Image for my OS backup now.