Wednesday, June 5, 2013

April 2013

Blog post April 2013

How to make safe your important digital files.
This blog post is in response to questions we sometimes get asked about backups and long-term digital files. Below is an introduction that cover’s in broad terms the do’s and don’ts for the average person and archival environment alike.

The 3-2-1 Rule
The simplest way to remember how to back up your digital files safely is to use the 3-2-1 rule.
It is recommend keeping 3 copies of any important file (a primary and two backups)

It is recommend having the files on 2 different media types (such as hard drive and optical media), to protect against different types of hazards.

1 copy should be stored offsite (or if not practical for you then at least offline).

While 3-2-1storage is an excellent solution, it's not always possible or practical. A second media type, for instance, is impractical for many people. In these cases, many people make do with hard-drive-only copies of their data. Best practices, still require 3 copies and some physical separation between the copies and remember to migrate data to new drives or new technology as finances allow. Hard drives, especially lower quality ones have a bad track record of failing just sitting around on a shelf somewhere. So check them periodically.
Device failure
Malicious damage
Transfer corruption
Lightning strike/Voltage surge
Fire or water damage
Human error

In order to plan a backup system that works for you, it’s important to understand the kinds of complications that can lead to data loss. Below are some of the dangers that threaten your data’s well being and what can be done to alleviate it.
Any digital storage device can fail. Hard drives fail all the time, and even a multi-drive system can fall off a table and be destroyed. In order to provide real backup, a backup copy of the data needs to be on a separate device, such as an external drive or different media like optical disc.
Viruses can propagate silently from one storage device to another, and then strike to destroy data. All rewritable data is potentially vulnerable to viruses (even on MAC), so any hard drive data is at risk. So keep your anti virus software current.
Your data can be exposed to other malicious damage, either from anonymous hackers or perhaps from people targeting you personally. Any computer that is online is theoretically vulnerable to hackers, although an enterprise-level firewall can offer lots of protection. The best protection is offline, and preferably offsite.
While this issue is extremely low for well-maintained systems it is still worth mentioning and being aware of. Any time data is transferred from one device to another; there is a possibility of corruption. This can be because of problems with the RAM, drive, connectors, network, or cables. The best protection against transfer corruption is to transfer files with a utility that performs a validated transfer.
Excess voltage from a lightning strike or a blown power company transformer can fry your computer in a heartbeat. A surge protector might protect your computer from damage caused by this excess voltage, but provides no real guarantee of protection. The best protection is provided by the use of off-site, or at least off-line backups.
Yes this is the oldest issue with any information stored or held by an individual or corporation. Protection against a thief includes security measures such as an alarms or a safe, or once again with offsite secure storage.
All digital media can be destroyed by fire or water damage. But unlike a film archive, it’s possible to make a complete offsite duplicate of your digital archive for very little money, and therefore be fully protected.
One of the most common causes of data loss is simple human error. You can accidentally throw away or unintentionally modify files in some undesirable way. Think twice or maybe thrice before deleting, modifying files. Most people are not tech savvy enough to retrieve deleted files. There are companies that specialize in data recovery but they are expensive and it is not always guaranteed. Off-line off site backups that don't get updated immediately are a valuable part of protection against human error.