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The Cloud and Reverse Back-Up

More and more of our programs and data are moving to the cloud. In some cases, we’re accessing the cloud for the applications and files we use for business and personal computing. In other cases, we’re using the cloud for backing up our hard drives. We don’t give it a second thought – but we should.

Backing up your programs and files is like having insurance. Backing up in more than one place is like having better insurance coverage. In this case, you want to insure that you protect the economic value of programs and data – so that you have immediate access when something goes wrong with your system.

Just as insurance policies have fine print to detail what they cover – and don’t – you need to look closely at the user agreements for every cloud-based server that houses your valuable data.

The first thing you should know is what happens if the company storing your data goes out of business? This could be the worst case scenario. Is there a provision for somebody to notify you of a pending problem or actual problem? Will you have time to download your data and move everything to another site? If you rely on this server – cloud – to store the programs and files you access every day for your business or to store valuable personal data such as photographs and home videos, you must know how to protect them and your access. If you can’t get a satisfactory answer, don’t put your data there.

The next thing you should know is who owns your data? If you access programs through a subscription, the ownership is likely to be straightforward; the publishers own them. However, you must be able to have access to your specific data files – all of your business records, correspondence (business and personal) and files.

How reputable is the company that stores your programs and data? If feel like you can’t get a straight answer from them about any of the points we just raised, you’d certainly have to wonder about them.

Again, to continue the insurance analogy, any of these issues only become problems when something goes wrong and you lose valuable data and time. While there are very few iron-clad guarantees in life, you can buy insurance with “reverse backup” and with multiple backups.

Let’s start with the premise that storage – as a raw cost – is cheap. You can buy one or two (or more) external storage devices for less than $200 apiece and back up data files. Online backups to the cloud can cost less than $25 per month, depending on the service and your volume. Your options are limited only by what you want to spend to ensure you have access to all of your data. You can:

  • Back up all of your files multiple times using different devices, which can cover you if your cloud vaporizes and one external device crashes.
  • Back up selected files to specified devices.
  • Physically move backup devices offsite periodically to cover yourself if a disaster strikes your home or office.
  • Use automated programs to back up your data files onsite and offsite.

Along these lines, clients often ask about when they should delete files. Our answer is never. Again, because storage is so inexpensive, it can actually cost you more to delete files than to simply file them away in archives. Our archived files take up much more space than our active files, for example, but we have an electronic filing system that enables us to find any information going back more years than we care to remember. If longtime clients have questions about something we performed or proposed, the answers are at our fingertips.

In addition to backing up data files, you should have copies of your program and applications disks safely stored. As we noted earlier this year, it’s nearly impossible to restore program files without the originals. We’re often called to restore program files as part of a disaster recovery or when we begin working for a new client, and we always ask for the original disks if they were used to load the programs requiring restoration. (See our article on Unlicensed Software.)

We can help you design and implement a backup system using the cloud and external storage devices to meet your specific needs. Just send us an email or give us a call (973-433-6676). It’s something you’ll want when you can’t get what you need.

This article was published in Technology Update, the monthly newsletter from Sterling Rose LLC.