IronTree InfographicMany people (and here I’m talking about individuals, professionals, small business owners, and even large corporations) trust an external hard drive to keep their data safe. In all honesty, that is about the worst backup you could have, apart from not having a backup at all. In this blog post I’ll explain why. Here’s what we’ll cover: Why is it important to keep backups? Why is it a bad idea to keep your backups on a hard drive? What would be a good backup solution?

Why is it important to keep backups?

Statistically, one in 5 companies lose critical data at least once per month. And it’s not just companies; whether you are a professional person with a special skill, or a student working on your thesis, or even just someone with some photos or documents that you would prefer not to lose, backups are absolutely essential. Data loss occurs in many ways. It could be due to theft. Nothing is ever 100% safe from the prying hands of someone who would want to re-appropriate your property. Once that data is gone, there’s no getting it back, and you can only guess what the thief might do with your personal information. Data can also get lost due to natural disasters such as fires or floods. This is why it’s a good idea to keep a copy of your backups off-site; in that way, if your computers get destroyed by fire for example, you would still have a backup copy available. Two other ways that data gets lost is through hardware failure (more on that in a moment), as well as through human error. For example, if you right-click on a file to create a shortcut, have you ever noticed that “Create Shortcut” in the Windows context menu is right above “Delete”? Thank goodness for the Recycle Bin; but the fact remains that many people have made the mistake of deleting data that they didn’t mean to delete, or that they later realized they still needed.

Why is it a bad idea to keep your backups on a hard drive?

As already stated, many people (if not most) tend to keep their important backups on an external hard drive. Let me explain why that isn’t a good idea: Your hard drive (unless you use a SSD drive) is a highly sensitive mechanical device. It consists of multiple metallic platters, coated on both sides with magnetic particles. If anything physically touches the particles coating the platters, that equals data loss. Now let’s add to the equation the fact that these metallic platters are mounted on a spindle that spins the platters at speeds of up to 10000RPM. That’s about 166 rotations per second. The next part of the equation is called the actuator arm. It’s a little mechanical arm that moves back and forth over the platters, moving the read/write heads into position so that data can be accessed or written. The heads are a fraction of a milimeter above the surface of the platter; if they move closer, you scratch the surface and damage your drive; if they move further away then you won’t be able to read your data. Now all of this is packaged in one tiny device that you carry around with you and transport on our well-maintained South African roads. Does this really sound like a good thing to trust with your wedding photos, self-written poetry, or accounting system? The simple answer is, hard drives are built to fail. Expecting it to just keep going is just as ridiculous as expecting your car to keep on going forever without giving it a service.

What would be a good backup solution?

A good backup solution should be:

  1. Efficient. It should do what it’s supposed to do, which is, keeping your data safe.
  2. Off-site. As explained earlier, keeping your backups in the same place as your computer system is a bad idea.
  3. Secure. You don’t want people to take advantage of your personal data by getting their hands on your backup.
  4. Automatic. Ideally you should configure it and never have to think about it again, until the day when you need to restore something.
  5. Easy to use. Nobody wants to do a certification course on doing backups; this is probably why so few people really make proper backups.
  6. Cost effective. It should suit your budget, whatever that may be.

For effective backups, we recommend Druva inSync. Druva is a low-cost, securely encrypted, online, off-site backup solution that’s easy to configure and automatic. Once it’s configured you will never have to worry about doing a manual backup again. You can read more about it on our Druva inSync Backup page, where you can also order your Druva inSync backup account.