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Backup and Storage (2)
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By Robert Handley
Kirksville native, laborer, filmmaker, sailor, technologist. I've had an interest in how things work since childhood and today making things work is my job description. I'm an IT generalist/consultant and database developer, and for the last ...
Please Stay Tuned...
Kirksville native, laborer, filmmaker, sailor, technologist. I've had an interest in how things work since childhood and today making things work is my job description. I'm an IT generalist/consultant and database developer, and for the last several years I've concentrated on simplifying and securing small business technology. I intend that complexity stay inside the machine, and that your experience outside it be productive and pleasant. When you make technology decisions there are many sources for information and advice, but it's sometimes overwhelming to sift through. So I'll render fact, opinion and personal experience into palatable portions that I hope you'll find helpful. I'm not a tech evangelist, rather I play a balancing act, because it's easy to collect a closet full of expensive, planet killing junk. Please stay tuned...
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June 25, 2012 12:01 a.m.

Backup and Storage (2)
Click here to read Storage 1
The amount of new data (aka digital stuff) that's generated daily is staggering. Statistics have been published ad nausaum so I won't repeat. If you're interested a reasonable explanation can be studied by clicking here (courtesy Mashable).
More devices, more data, exploding population, more users, more storage. It’s inevitable, circular growth, some would say technical evolution, even though a lot of it is pure junk.
Businesses and individuals create new digital bits faster than old ones are deleted. Even though few of us have regular document, picture, music, and/or homework emergencies, losses do happen, so we need to recover from them. Backups are insurance, copies of what we already have, but they increase the need for storage.
In the last blog post I advised my daughter to cull her voluminous collection of digital stuff because not everything can or should be saved. Easy for me to say. My daughter wears many hats, among them graduate student, so she's a frequent author on hard deadlines. For Erin, every day, every 10 minutes, or even ten keystrokes, some form of backup is appropriate. In the case of failure or accident she requires near-instant restoration. iPad, Mac, Windows, Android... the device isn't important; unique stuff should be protected, and backups are necessary because error is inevitable.
However, not everyone is a student, not everyone generates unique, original content. One failsafe strategy can't fit all, so backups can be applied with a discipline that fits the owner's use scenario. If one only surfs the web, uses cloud based email (like Yahoo, Hotmail, gMail, etc., all recoverable), then infrequent backup just to save programs and personalization, or no backup whatsoever, might be adequate.
My Backup Scheme, not to be confused with The Only Backup Scheme
All stuff that changes daily, like pictures, blog drafts, spreadsheets, etc., are automatically uploaded by my devices to cloud storage (like Dropbox, iCloud), but only if the device is turned on and internet connected. When convenient, I make complete backups of the entire device (impractical with cloud storage, ). I assume any device (or I) will eventually trash something important, but because I mix and match tactics, if a device is completely trashed or missing a single picture, any manner of restoration is possible.
To avoid bloat I'll periodically clean up my stuff by deleting what I think I'll never use again and move on, usually with no regret. However, because I keep versioned, backups, even stuff that I consciously trashed can probably be retrieved in a pinch.
Backups can be iterative, that is, only the stuff that’s changed from one backup to the next will be recorded, a tidy method for holding backups to a reasonable size. Complete backups might be impractical to use every day, but when used in combination with other backup schemes an acceptable strategy can be realized.
But what happens if my house burns down, taking all my computers and external storage media with it? The online (cloud) storage I used for daily stuff is probably retrievable (no absolute guarantees in this life), but that type of restoration won't include all the programs, personalization and unknown stuff, not ideal but much better than nothing.
Online (read cloud) storage may have the best chance of surviving natural catastrophic scenarios. If you're only using a smartphone and not keeping pictures, video and music, no worries. But if you take a lot of pictures and video, you'll need upload speed and storage far beyond the minimum allotment. This raises the ugly specter of data caps, an allocation limit imposed by your Internet or cell provider. Despite claims of unlimited bandwidth, most carriers are lying and will charge if you exceed your cap, or even just shut you down without notice! Bandwidth limits and other loathsome, monopolistic practices by internet service providers can make cloud storage expensive, more detail in a later post.
For computers, one very useful solution is to purchase an external hard drive (easily attached extra storage, looks like a little box). You can backup an entire computer to this external device on a regular basis. Both Apple and Windows 7 make backups soooo easy and these drives are not expensive. So if you value your digital stuff, there is no good excuse for not owning and using one.
Inconvenience alert: All eggs should not be kept in the same basket. The external storage device that holds your backups should be moved to another address, except when you’re using it. If you're a lawyer, doctor or accountant, then move the backup drive to a safe deposit box (usually a small one will suffice, the external devices can be very small). If you're a home user and don't want to pay a bank to keep your digital stuff then move the external storage drive to a neighbor’s house (only good if you don't both get wiped out in the same tornado) or any trusted location some distance away. This provides reasonable assurance that a catastrophe in one location won't endanger the stuff being kept in the other. No harm in overkill, but potentially great, irrevocable harm in doing nothing!
So, redundancy requires backup. Backup requires storage, whether cloud, external drive or any other capable device. The need for redundancy grows with device dependency, and so does the inconvenience of thinking about it.
Of course, none of this responsible behavior discussion and dicipline describes the 12-24 year-old demographic. Children and young adults have little or no sensitivity to risk (imagine that). Parents, particularly those sending their children to college, should take charge of their children’s devices and even the redundancy factor (yes, there's a way to take care of students remotely, even if they're not living at home, TBD). Prophylaxis is protection, even if imperfect.
Whoops! There was a lot more in this post but I had written it down on a legal pad and now my cat is digesting it. I'll need stay up and re-write all night or beg for an extended deadline. Please have mercy...
Next up: Even More Storage and Backup...
Feel free to offer topic suggestions. Commenting on the blog would be great, let’s get some discussions going. Or, if you don’t want to comment and have a topic suggestion, please email: kdegeneralist@gmail.com
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