Synchronization Is Not Backup: Confused? Read These 8 Helpful Tips

Online Computer Backup

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Many of us use one or more synchronization services to ensure are data is accessible from any computer or mobile device. This is great.

However, synchronization only “backs up” certain files. It’s still important that you ensure ALL your files and programs are backed up – including the files you have on external hard drives.

It’s also important that you consider if you need to backup images of your desktop computers or servers. If your server crashes, just being able to get a few user files does not get you back up and running. You need your operating system and program files up and running as well.

Matthew Dornquast, founder and CEO of Code 42 Software – developers of CrashPlan and CrashPlan PRO gives these 8 tips:

Back up to multiple destinations – Hopefully you don’t need to be convinced that having at least one backup is essential. And if you’re only going to have one, online backup is the way to go. But two destinations, physically separate, are infinitely better than one – you really want an onsite backup for super-fast backups and restores, and an offsite/cloud backup to protect against things like fire and theft of your onsite backup. There is backup software such as CrashPlan that offer multi-destination backups, allowing you to have all of your data in as many locations as you needed. If you only implement one of these suggestions, multiple destinations are by far the most important!

Pick a secure online backup provider – When choosing an online backup provider, be sure that your data will be encrypted before it ever leaves your computer. The best systems use 448-bit encryption, and allow you to provide your own private key, so it’s completely impossible for anyone else to access your data.

Pick a complete backup provider – all backup solutions are not created equal. Some key capabilities to look for:

· The ability to back up to and from external drives

· The ability to easily restore your files (i.e. Can you restore files to a different computer or OS than where they came from? Can you restore files via a web interface? Can you restore any or all of your files to the way they were on a specific date?)

· Mobile applications which give easy access to your files from your smartphone or tablet

Make sure your backup system saves multiple versions of any files – It’s relatively common these days for backup software to save multiple previous version of a file. The best systems let you specify how frequently a new version is saved, how many total versions of each file are retained, and for how long. CrashPlan, for example, can save new versions every minute and keep as many as you want for as long as you want. This makes it possible to revert to essentially any version of your work.

Make sure your backup system retains deleted files – Most backup systems retain copies of deleted files for some period of time before purging them from the backup data. 30 days is typical. This sounds good, but it’s actually bad. If you don’t realize you’ve deleted something before that time limit, the file is lost for good. CrashPlan’s normal behavior is to keep deleted files forever. You can manually change this setting if you prefer not the save deleted files for that long.

Realize Sync Does NOT Equal Backup – There are a number of excellent file sync systems, which make it easy to keep a set of files and folders synchronized between two or more computers. This is invaluable if you have files that you want to have accessible in more than one location (on a desktop and laptop computer, for example). Items added or modified on one machine are automatically updated via a network connection to all the other machines. Although typical sync systems give the appearance of making backups of your files, it can be tricky because of the nature of sync. If you delete something from one computer, that deletion is also performed on any other machine on the account. So if you accidentally delete a file from your synced data set, and don’t realize it right away, there’s a good chance it will be gone from all the other machines. The bottom line is that sync can be a great complement to backup, but is not a substitute because it cannot protect you from data loss that is the result of human error

Make sure backup is automatic and unobtrusive – There are backup solutions that run automatically and continuously without requiring any intervention from the user. This helps SMBs insure that all data is being backed up regularly, rather than leaving it in the hands of employees to remember it. Also, you want to be sure that the client software doesn’t slow down your users’ computers. If it does, they are more likely to disable it, which is bad.

Verify that your backup is actually backing up – Don’t wait until a disaster occurs to check your backup. It’s wise to periodically select some data from each of your backup destinations (you have more than one, right?) and restore it to be sure it works as expected. And don’t just test small files; choose some large files as well so you’ll know for sure that it’s going to work when you really need it.

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Ramon Ray, Editor & Technology Evangelist, Smallbiztechnology.com . Editor and Founder, Smart Hustle Magazine Full bio at http://www.ramonray.com . Check him out on Google Plus, Twitter or Facebook

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