Too many people don’t take care of their data. The ones that say they keep “backups” usually have a 3-month-old backup on a 5-year-old USB drive, or even worse others assume that external drives cannot fail, and keep all of their stuff on aging disks. If you haven’t had it happen yet, one day you’ll go to use your tech and find out that that it’s all gone. Good thing you made those backups.

Here are some characteristics of good backups.

Frequency: Good backups should be made frequently enough to miss as few changes as possible. However, the criticalness of frequency depends entirely on what you’re doing. Banks will need to create backups more often than a small message board would.

Restorability: A backup doesn’t do you any good if you can’t restore your data from them. Always be sure to test out backups on a test machine or a virtual machine to make sure you will have everything you need.

Scope: Backing up /tmp/ probably isn’t the best choice, but what about things besides data? Configuration files, databases, websites, and other important files might be missed by backing up only /home/. Be sure to consider everything you need from your computer.

Onsite vs. Offsite: Keeping a backup off premises is the best solution if possible. Consider a physical event like a flood or fire. If your computer is damaged and you keep your backups in close proximity, more than likely it will also have damage. Offsite backup pricing has come down significantly, but other factors like slow internet speed and bandwidth limits can keep this from being realistic. LTO tape drives also offer cheap, compact backup media. Just ship them to a buddy’s house or another branch of your organization.

Online vs. Offline (Bonus): Storing backups on readily available hardware is simple, but it also brings its own risks. In the event of a ransomware attack or a breach, those backups could just be overwritten by the ransomware or deleted by a malicious party. A great solution to this would be to store backups in a write-only container or by keeping the data offline. LTO tape again is a great solution to this problem as tapes can only be modified by being inside the actual drive.

Double check your backups. Most people and companies have been and are still doing them all wrong.

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