It was a hot summer day but I felt frozen – the blood drained from my face and I couldn’t move. I’d just been told that our external hard disk drive which had been playing up was absolutely kaput. The data recovery company was prepared to have a go at recovering the data on there but it would cost $550.00 per repair attempt and there was no guarantee that any information would be recovered at all.
Are all our photos gone?
My husband and I looked at each other in horror; that hard disk drive had held all our photos including ones of my late mother-in-law’s final days with us. What should we do?
Andy suggested looking at home – had we put the photos onto another laptop; had we sent them to other people via email or a USB drive; were they backed up via Google Photos or Apple iCloud? In his experience, most people had the original source elsewhere and it just took a bit of looking to find them.
And that’s exactly what we did – we turned the house upside down looking for any previous storage options including DVDs; old laptops and USB sticks and to our great relief we found all the photos that had been on the failed drive, on one of the spare laptops. For the first time in hours, I was able to breathe properly.
This must never happen again
But what if that spare laptop failed in the future? I did not want us to ever be caught out like this again. We’d been lucky this time but it wasn’t guaranteed that would happen again. Time to follow the best practices for backing up files often called the “3-2-1” rule:
1. Keep at least three copies of your data.
That’s the original, source document as well as two copies of the same data.
2. Use two (different) storage types to backup data.
But don’t keep the copies on the same types of storage – for example, 3 different laptops. Instead, use a different storage type like an external hard drive or even DVDs. In our case, we copied the photos onto many, many DVDs and then put the DVDs into our safe.
3. At least one backup should be offsite.
Andy’s low-tech solution was to send another set of DVDs to a family member but I decided to use a cloud storage solution instead – namely Google Photos.
Google Photos has unlimited storage if you’re willing to have your uploaded photos compressed to 16MP. Since most photos taken by a phone are much lower than this, that’s not really a problem for most users. Plus, unlike Apple’s cloud storage option it can be accessed by both iOS (my husband) and Android (me) users.
If you’ve not heard of Google Photos before, then this video is a good overview of its capabilities:
But what about things other than photos?
We hadn’t just had photos on that hard disk drive – we’d had documents and music. Most of the documents were gone unfortunately but we still had our original CDs (thanks to a husband who hates to throw things out) so there was our first copy.
To create a 2nd copy of the CDs, we copied them all across to the same spare laptop containing our photos – from now on this would be our main entertainment laptop.
Then we purchased 1TB of storage from Google Drive and copied all the music from the laptop to Google Drive to create our 3rd, offsite copy.
And in the future?
Well, all the photos we take on our phones (copy 1) are backed up automatically to our own personal Google Photos accounts (offsite copy). Each week we download that week’s set of photos and add them to the entertainment laptop (3rd copy).
The same with any documents that we create – one copy is kept personally on our own laptops; one copy is kept on the entertainment laptop and one copy is kept offsite in Google Drive.
And music? Well, much of that is streamed of course now, but the small amount of music that we do purchase is downloaded to our personal laptop; the entertainment laptop; and then copied to Google Docs.
How about you? It’s not just personal data that could be lost – do you have a backup plan in your business?