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October 2014

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The Most Important Question to Ask About Backup

Get out your #2 pencils. It’s time for a quiz.
What’s the most important question to ask about your backup?
  • How much does it cost?
  • How recent is your last backup?
  • How much can it store?
  • How secure is it?
  • None of the above.
(scroll down for answer)

Are you sure you don’t want to change your answer?
(if not, scroll down more)

The most important thing to know about your backup is whether you can get your files back if you should lose them. The price, timeliness, capacity, and security of your backup method are all moot if your files are irretrievable. If you can’t get your files back, then what are you paying for? Is it better to have 2GB of irretrievable data or just 1GB?  Are your files so protected that nobody can get them back, not even you?

It’s incredible that so many people would trust their data to software, hardware, media, systems, servers, and companies without knowing for certain that the data can be restored if the necessity arises. However, there are several reasons for this:
  • The backup itself takes long enough. Who wants to restore everything back again, just to check it?
  • Who wants to proofread thousands of files for accuracy?.. even if anybody had the time?
  • Who knows how to properly restore from their backup?
  • Who knows how to restore their backup, without clobbering their current files and/or making a mess?
  • Some companies charge (or charge extra) per data restore. Who needs that expense?
  • Some restores may not even be viable (e.g. restoring all of Windows operating system  - while it’s running the computer)
  • People trust, hoping that nothing will go wrong.
How, then, can you know if you can get your files back when needed? There’s only one way. That’s to run a test restore. If you don’t know how to restore, then learn. It’s knowledge that could come in handy if you actually do lose data. You probably can’t or don’t want to restore all your files. Do spot checks. If you can’t restore just a few files, then I advise searching for a new backup system. There are utilities that check whether two files are identical. Check a restored file against the original. Some backup methods are much easier to verify than others.

Read the reviews for different backup companies and systems. Count how many read along the lines of “when I tried to get my files back it didn’t work”.  If your data is worth backing up and you’re expending time and money on backing up, then isn’t it worth it to know whether your backup is good or not? If you filled in the oval (er, circle) next to “None of the above.”, then you answered correctly. Celebrate by running a backup. Then check it!


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