Everybody will experience data loss at some point in time. I did about four years ago when my laptop died. When I turned it on one morning, it sputtered and coughed at me, then groaned and died. None of the tech gurus I consulted could save the laptop or its contents. Luckily, I was in the process of moving my work to a new computer, so my losses were minimal, but there are some things that I'll never see again.
Of course, a hard drive crash is just one way data is lost. There are also computer theft, accidents and human error. As Matthew Dornquast, CEO of Code 42 Software told me:
Deleting the wrong file in error, deleting a file that you think you don't need, only to find out too late that you really did need it, or doing a Save' when you meant to do a Save As' after making changes to an important document all fall under this category. So how can one avoid data loss?
According to Forrester Research, a growing number of SMBs are looking at backup options. Besides the risk of losing information, having a backup option adds a layer of security protection-you have a record of what you've lost and you will know exactly what might be in the hands of others (in the case of theft or loss).
Domquast provided some tips for what to consider when looking at backup vendors and programs:
- Back up your data to multiple destinations-Overall, this is the number one way to protect against data loss from any of the above causes. Make two, three or more backups of your data, with at least one in a different physical location. Keep in mind, this is not the same as making backups of backups. Why? Because any data loss or corruption during transmission of the first backup would simply be replicated in the subsequent backup.
- Make sure your backup system saves multiple versions of any files-It's relatively common these days for backup software to save multiple previous versions of a file. The best systems let you specify how frequently a new version is saved, how many total versions of each file are retained and for how long.
- Make sure your backup system retains deleted files-Most backup systems retain copies of deleted files for some period of time before purging them from the backup data. Thirty days is typical. This sounds good, but it's actually bad. If you don't realize you've deleted something before that time limit, the file is lost for good. (Note that this is different from items that you manually remove from a backup by deselecting them in the backup software. In that case it is assumed that your intention is not to keep those backups, so they are flagged to be purged.)
- Know the difference between sync and backup-There are a number of excellent file sync systems, which make it easy to keep a set of files and folders synchronized between two or more computers. This is invaluable if you have files that you want to have accessible in more than one location (on a desktop and laptop computer, for example). Items added or modified on one machine are automatically updated via a network connection to all the other machines. Although typical sync systems give the appearance of making backups of your files, it can be tricky because of the nature of sync. If you delete something from one computer, that deletion is also performed on any other machine on the account. So if you accidentally delete a file from your synced data set, and don't realize it right away, there's a good chance it will be gone from all the other machines. The bottom line is that sync can be a great complement to backup, but is not a substitute because it cannot protect you from data loss that is the result of human error.