By Alex Vuchnich, CPA, CFE - I have tried several different backup options over the years. This includes backups to external hard drives, file servers and folder synchronizations between PCs on the same network. Most of these solutions allow for a relatively high level of automation when configured properly but none have been a solution that addresses all of my back up concerns. I discovered just the other day that the two year old external drive that I was backing up all of my personal media to was dead. Even worse when I went to check the last backup date it was from this past April, the drive failure date. For the past five months all of my digital photos, my investment in digital music, home videos, etc. have been at risk in the event that my media server failed. I began immediately looking for a new solution to this. Typically when performing file system backups we want to protect against three data loss scenarios.
First we want to guard ourselves against unintentional or malicious data deletion, corruption or modification. This could be anything from accidental file deletion to system corruption as a result of a virus attack. Backup versioning provides a solution to this by providing multiple restore points so that we can effectively go back in time to recover the correct version of the data file.
The second thing that we want to guard against is drive failure. My personal experience with drive failure rates is somewhere around 15% over a three year period as evidenced by the stack of dead hard drives in my supply closet that now solely function as paper weights. Of all components in the PC the hard drive and fans are most susceptible to failure due to the fact that they are mechanical devices that involve moving parts. Sooner or later these devices will fail. Redundancy has been the main solution to this problem, either in the form of RAID configurations or backups to an external drive. Potentially with the emergence of affordable SSDs this may become less of a concern in the future.
The final reason we perform routine backups is to protect against catastrophic loss. In the event of a disaster such as a fire or flood backup data will need to be stored in an offsite facility that is not also in the vicinity of the disaster area. For many businesses this type of loss is the hardest to protect against since removable storage and delivery to an offsite facility may be difficult or expensive to implement and manage. Many times in the small business environment this ends up taking the form of someone performing a tape backup or saving files to an external drive and then carrying the backup media home with them from the office. Obviously this is not an ideal solution when considering that in many disaster scenarios staff members homes may be afflicted by the same disaster as the main office.
I recently started using Mozy, which is an online backup solution. I have only tried out their personal solution but so far have been satisfied with the service. The service works by having you install a backup utility on the PC or PCs that you wish to backup. The utility includes an automated scheduler and then you can choose to backup the entire drive image or just selected files and folders. The backup data is then uploaded to the Mozy backup file servers out in the cloud. They even keep multiple versions of your backup images for 30 days. The service provides a backup solution that protects against all of the scenarios noted above guarding against unintended file changes, drive failure and disaster. For large uploads it does take some time for the first completed backup to occur, however once the backup completes from that point forward only changes are backed up so future uploads are minimal. On my personal media server I have been trying to backup approximately 60GB of digital music, photos and home videos. After a week I am currently at 31GB so it definitely takes some time. The personal service runs for $4.95 per month for unlimited backup. For business use the pricing is $3.95 - $5.95 + .50 per GB per month of backup storage.