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Word to the wise: Backup your backups

Or lose your childhood photos forever!

I’m a big advocate of centralised digital storage, in fact I’ve been running my own personal cloud since 2008.  Since then I’ve not stored any photos, music, video or documents on my PC or laptop.  It’s all been stored on a low power Network Attached Storage (NAS) device that allows me to access all of my data from any device, providing I have Internet access.  What’s more, if I take a photo on my smartphone it’s automatically added to my NAS, so I’ve got an instant backup if I lose or damage my phone.

It’s a system that works well.  If I ever have to replace or rebuild my PC, I don’t have to worry about taking a backup first.  I just switch on the new PC, connect to my NAS drive, and I have instant access to all of my data.  What’s more, the NAS itself contains four hard disks, but can still access all of my data if one of the disks fails.  Bad hard disk?  No problem, just swap it out for a new one and the system rebuilds itself.

CloudStation

It all sounds like a pretty safe solution, and it is, but it’s not invulnerable.  What if two hard disks fail at the same time?  What if the whole thing goes bang? What if I delete a bunch of stuff by accident when hungover one morning?  I’m sad to admit that’s what happened to me a few weeks ago.

When things like that happen you need toknow the importance of backing up, even if your data by its very nature is already “backed up”.  A centralised system that has some form of fail-safe (like RAID) doesn’t necessarily mean that you’re safe.  The good news is that most devices have some form of automatic backup, either via a separate USB hard disk or some form of online service.  Thankfully, I’d taken a full backup of all of my data to an external drive around 3 months ago, so all I lost were the last few albums I bought on Amazon and some photos of stuff I’d sold on eBay.  All of my previous memories, all of my important documents and about 5 TerraBytes of media were safely contained on a little black box in a drawer in my hallway.

Recovering that data could have been a lot more difficult.  Purchased digital media can easily be replaced these days, but there’s no way I could replace the digital copies of photographs from my childhood, nor the important documents that I keep on my NAS, and not my PC, “because it’s safer”.

My advice would be two fold:

1) Definitely move to a centralised storage system; it’s MUCH safer than keeping your data on individual PCs

2) Once you have centralised your data, make sure you keep a completely separate backup of all of your important data.

Follow those two rules and I promise you many happy years of flawless data storage, and what could be cooler than that? Uhum.

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