Off-Site Data Backup Part 1

Overview

So many things are stored digitally nowadays from messages to photos but how many of them are irreplaceable? I fear for losing my data from past experience but even more so now that I have a child. Thankfully my friend, Dave set me on this path in 2011. Today it’s not perfect still but I’m sure it’s more than what most people will do.

What & Why Would You Hold Data Elsewhere?

Off site refers to the data not being on premise for example held outside of the office to not being in the same location as where the original data is. It (should) be a common practice among companies especially where data is your business like Google, Facebook, etc.

Planning

Before starting I had to answer the following questions:

  1. What?
  2. How often?
  3. Where?

All of them are linked in a way but starting with what needs to be backed up. Not everything does. For example I decided the Operating System (OS) like Windows did not need to be backed up. This is because it could be re-installed and setup (albeit taking time) to get it back to how I’d like it. The easier question was what must be included which were documents, pictures / videos and Dropbox (more on this).

With the above in mind will determine how much space they require now. It’s best to allow for expansion because your data will grow. Different people have different needs. This also leads onto how often they change or are added to. The frequency of change will have to be balanced with how often you backup to a remote location.

Online Backup

Having an online backup is a way of having a remote backup. The data is uploaded and sync’d without even having to leave the home. The reason I did not consider this option was mainly due to cost and time. My data is currently hovering around 1TB-1.5TB. Even if I uploaded at the full speed that my ISP gives me at 12Mbps that would still take almost 8 days non stop at full speed.

To a lesser extent the cost of keeping that data online. Using really rough maths, my rough understanding and costs from 2016 it would cost around 30 USD Amazon S3, 26 USD Google storage. At the time archiving data storage didn’t exist but if I was to use them it would cost 18 USD per month on Amazon Glacier and 10 USD for Google Nearline. All of these figures are only for the on going monthly pricing for holding the data and does not include any transfer costs, retrieval costs, etc.

Based on these figures S3 would cost 1680 USD, Google storage 1456 USD, 560 USD using Nearline and 1008 USD in Glacier.

Setup

I use 2TB external 3.5″ external USB hard drives all of the same type. This allows me to keep the power adapter for the drives at each location and 1 at home where the data is backed up on a weekly basis. The drives are cheaper than 2.5″ on a per Mb calculation but you have an extra dependency which was the power adapter. Without one you couldn’t power the drives unlike the 2.5″ cousins who draw power from USB.

I have one of these drives at home and the others at physically different places. The one on site is backed up on more or less a weekly basis and before I travel to swap the drives. I do this approximately every 2-3 months.

I have an a Network Attached Storage (NAS) at home (on-site). You can see more on how this work here but this is to guard against the situation where I take my external drive, swap it for the old one and come back to a dead computer. I would then have a backup that’s 2-3 months and need to go back and retrieve the off site backup to get the most up to date backup.

A future improvement would be to have an always online off-site so that once the backup was taken, only changes are copied over the Internet.

Security

I started using TrueCrypt to encrypt the data on the external drives. This hindered access to the drives whilst they were left unattended or if they were stolen. I have since moved onto Veracrypt since TrueCrypt is no longer supported and it has been working very well.

I predominately use Windows so it’s formatted as such but True/Veracrypt have Mac and Linux clients. I haven’t tried accessing the drive from another OS yet but the option. The software is available so if I need access from another machine for example a replacement machine to restore data, All I need is Internet access.

Summary

The preparation is probably the key part of the setup. Once the planning is in place the execution should be fairly easy.

About Danny

I.T software professional always studying and applying the knowledge gained and one way of doing this is to blog.

Danny also has participates in a part time project called Energy@Home [http://code.google.com/p/energyathome/] for monitoring energy usage on a premise.

Dedicated to I.T since studying pure Information Technology since the age of 16, Danny Tsang working in the field that he has aimed for since leaving school.

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