Just because you’re paranoid, part I

See part II, part III, part IV.

I’m a Mac guy, remember? I use Time Machine as my backup strategy because I don’t really have to think about it. It just works – it does it’s thing and I’m largely oblivious.

Obliviousness is peachy until the hard disk crashes in the backup drive. The good news is that the only things I lost were files that are currently deleted, the ones that exist only in the backups now – the source computer is fine, it’s the backup that’s toast.

So no big deal, right – buy a new backup drive (larger and cheaper at the same time – that’s a bonus, isn’t it?) and start the Time Machine process again. Everybody’s happy again in about 8 hours.

Yup, all happy until it happens again. The second time it happened (yeah, same system) I was a less than thrilled. I did all same stuff stuff as the first time (buy the bigger drive, start over, …) but now I’m getting worried -

What if I didn’t notice the backup was broken AND then I lost the original files?

So now I’m starting to think there are other kinds of issues that I don’t have a plan for, such as:

  • Your home is burglarized and ALL your computer gear is taken, or
  • Your home burns down, or
  • Aliens zap your equipment with their ultra-advanced alien ray gun technology.

Alright, I concede that the last one isn’t very likely, but the others can and do happen. Intellectually, I know what I’m supposed to do about all of these – it’s supposed to be in our Disaster Recovery (DR) strategy. One day I wake up (3 AM) with that worried feeling in my head and I start thinking about OUR Disaster Recovery strategy (the typical 2-pronged “Hope and Prayer” method) and come to the realization that WE DON’T HAVE ONE! (“Hope is not a strategy.” – Rudy Giuliani, et al.).

In surveying the various recommendations on the Internet (via a simple Google search), one element was quite consistent: a DR strategy requires a multi-front attack on the enemy, and that enemy is data loss. Local backups are part of a strategy to be sure, but also off-site copies of those same backups are necessary to mitigate the theft/fire/ray gun problem. We can look at these problems separately, but it has to be part of a coherent approach to be useful. Finally, there needs to be a way to verify that the various copies of the data can actually be recovered if needed. Sending a copy to a remote storage facility is only helpful if you can get the data back AND restore it when necessary.

I’ll continue this in 2 more posts – one discussing the local backup and one for the remote – so stay tuned.

1 comment to Just because you’re paranoid, part I

  • I lost count of the number of times I lost my data on a computer in the past 30 years. I think Dropbox.com finally fixes the problem: it takes a folder on your computer, copies it into the cloud, and also to any other computers you have hooked up to the service. It’s limited to 3GB, but it’s effectively a raid system distributed over geographically-dispersed and possibly OS-varying machines. I don’t worry about losing anything in that 3GB of space any more.

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