Backing up the backups

On Monday I recovered the Lacie external hard drive and with it my basic data. I was then able to restore some semblance of normality. Among other things, I reinstalled my email program and its address book and could send emails again.

Yesterday I tackled two jobs that I had been putting off because I wasn’t sure whether I would be successful. The first was to get the printer working with the laptop and the second was to install ACDSee and try to restore the cataloguing data for my photos.

The printer’s installation disc is nowhere to be found. I think it must be buried in one of the several packing cases we do not have room to unpack. Fortunately, I had managed to download drivers from the manufacturer’s site when I got the new desktop and I still had copies.

I ran the installation file and Windows did the rest. The printer now works!

Installing ACDSee was easy enough. Before handing over the desktop for delousing, I had got the program to back up its cataloguing data. The backup file was still on the Lacie but was it usable? If not, then I could not imagine going through all my photos and trying to catalogue them again from scratch. Much information would be lost.

It was a relief, then, that the program restored the data without a hitch.

I mentioned that I had carefully kept backups of my system. This is what enabled me to recover from the breakdown and return to normal so quickly. However, looking back over recent events, I could see that my backup system was not adequate. It relied on backing up my three devices (PC hard disc, external disc drive and USB flash drive) to one another. I assumed this was sufficient on the grounds that they would never all fail at the same time. I am no longer so confident.

New kid on the block
New kid on the block

So I went up the road to see M again and buy a Seagate external hard disc drive. There is too much data on the Lacie to back it up onto the laptop’s hard disc so a second external drive is the only reasonable answer.

The plan is to back up the laptop and the flash drive to the Lacie and back up the Lacie to the Seagate.

Disc drives don’t last for ever and I have had the Lacie for a while already. It is almost certain to break down sooner or later. The Seagate has a 5-year guarantee which gives some idea of the expected lifetime of these devices. By the time the Lacie fails, the data should all have been safely backed up on the Seagate. I will then take this as the working external drive and buy another one for backups.

“So you are buying this to back up your backup?” asked M with a laugh, adding “Where then is your backup for the backup of the backup?”

It was meant humorously but there is a truth behind the joke: no matter how many backups you have, there is no final guarantee that you will not lose your data. All we can do is take reasonable precautions and hope they cover eventualities.

Tigger has been working a late shift all this week so all our activities have been occurring 2 hours later in the day than usual. In time we would get used to this but in the short term it is strangely unbalancing. I keep catching sight of the clock and wondering where the day went. Barely have we settled down for the evening when it seems to be time for bed. Today is Omelette Day (lunch will be 2 hours later than normal) so we will soon be back on our familiar timetable.

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About SilverTiger

I live in Islington with my partner, "Tigger". I blog about our life and our travels, using my own photos for illustration.
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11 Responses to Backing up the backups

  1. Quis backupiet backupiens?

    I’ve been through the same rigmarole. I’ve ended up using Acronis Trueimage to take snapshots of the windows installation and linux partitions. In order to snapshot windows effeciently I found it necessary to move the majority of the “Program Files” folder onto another partition, so that large volumes of constantly changing data didn’t keep bloating the system partition. I can now burn each Windows backup to rewriteable DVD’s as an acronis image, and backup the other disks and data similarly to both USB disks and to DVD snapshots.

    The other thing I have found indespensible is to make seachable indexes of what is on all my backup disks and DVDs.

    I wish you luck.

  2. David says:

    You lost me at ACDSee

  3. SilverTiger says:

    To Sopwith Camel: I’ve thought of using Acronis or something similar and perhaps I’ll be forced into it eventually. For now I am backing up my main files so that if the system has to be restarted they can easily be recovered.

    To David: So you are all at ACDSee, eh 😉

    It’s simple: ACDSee records all the information you apply to your photos. If the program goes down and you don’t have a backup, you lose all that information (and work). If you do have a backup, you can reinstall the program and restore the data and return to the state you were in just prior to the failure. Of course, if the backup file is damaged, then you’re stuffed.

  4. David says:

    So then ACDSee is not a band??
    Dirty Deeds…done ..
    never mind.
    I’m off to bed.

  5. Villager says:

    I have found the ‘pen’ flash memory drives quite useful – they’ve come down a lot in price, and some have a very large capacity for an item only a few centimetres long.

  6. Em² says:

    Good to see you at least having a backup plan. Can’t tell you how many people I see that don’t give it a second thought. I admit I use a combination of HD, DVD and a paid for real time online backup. Often we never know if backups are working until we need to restore for some reason.

  7. SilverTiger says:

    To Villager: The price has certainly come down. Amazon was recently selling a 16 gig Sandisk Cruzer for £15.99. They are useful in many ways, not least because they enable you to carry your “computer” in your pocket and plug it into any machine. For the really paranoid, there are now models that have hardware encryption on board.

    To Em²: I too have thought about online storage but it’s a growing and competitive market and I wonder how many operators will survive. If they go offline, you lose your data. There is also the security angle. I would put files online only if they were solidly encrypted.

  8. Em² says:

    We all have our worries ( though I don’t think Amazon are going down the pan just now).The point of online backup for businesses at least anyway is that you have something that’s generated in real time and off-site as well as your physical backups.Kind of what saved a lot of businesses who were unlucky enough to be housed in the 911 twin towers (extreme example I know). It’s easy to get paranoid but fire and theft can still destroy your on site data (I’m sooo glass half empty aren’t I).

  9. SilverTiger says:

    I agree that some data storage companies are more likely to survive than others but there is never an absolute guarantee (nor for the privacy problem).

    Where critical data is involved, off-site backups are essential for the reasons you mention and if the data owner doesn’t own several sites then he has to have recourse to third parties. But the risks will always be there. You have to make your best choice and hope for the best.

  10. Em² says:

    I understand your scepticism which is valid though the way I see it is that those decisions and worries apply to many non IT things we use such as banks and our money, insurance companies, who to buy a holiday from, buying or renting a car or house,taking out a loan without knowing if we’ll suddenly not be able to work etc etc. An awful lot in life is a calculated risk (with no money back guarantee-indeed most operating system EULA’s state they are literally fit for nothing so not to rely on them but we go on using them anyway). As for privacy I’d need to be 100% certain that my own knowledge and choice of OS at home was way more secure than any third party solution to rule out not using such a service as an insurance policy . I do understand the leap of faith though.

  11. SilverTiger says:

    I agree that everything is a gamble to a greater or lesser extent. Failure and cheating occur in all domains of life. With everybody having to place their confidence in many people and institutions, it is inevitable that that confidence will sometimes be betrayed.

    However, I was just looking at the issue of online storage rather than the grand panorama of life in general. I recognize that online storage has a role to play, particularly for enterprises. Where home users (the group I fit into) are concerned, they usually can’t afford to spend the sort of money demanded by the big storage companies. They will therefore either do without or go for one of the free online storage sites. I have no reason to criticize these but neither would I make them the sole repository of my irreplaceable data or of data whose privacy I do not want compromised.

    One of my email addresses has only ever been given to companies that swear they keep your detail private but it still gets spam, showing that someone inside one of those companies has accidentally or on purpose given away my email address. Now, what have they done with my other details such as those of my credit card?

    My point is that it doesn’t matter how honest and secure a company claims to be: it only takes one careless or bent employee to cock things up. Therefore, the only reasonable attitude is to expect that sooner or later a breach will occur and do your best to reduce the effects.

    I hope your trust in online storage will never be betrayed. I also hope you have a copy of your data somewhere else!

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