It’s almost time to wrap up your prized possessions and put them in a safe place, because this Friday marks World Backup Day.
The international event takes place on 31 March and aims to raise awareness of the importance of securing valuable data.
According to the event’s organisers, 21% of people have never made backups of important files, whether that’s family photos, business documents or work files.
It’s a baffling statistic, because digital media is ubiquitous in our everyday lives and there is always a chance of those files being compromised.
For instance, documents can be corrupted in a hardware failure or compromised in a cyber attack, they can be lost or tampered with, or the devices that they’re kept on can be damaged.
If you have only one copy of those files, they will be permanently lost. That’s a big risk given how easy it is to back up your files.
Understanding these risks should be a cornerstone of our education, because almost everyone these days keeps digital files as part of their job or personal life.
As Databodi CTO Carl D’Halluin explains: “Failing to backup your data can have catastrophic consequences, as a single hardware failure, cyberattack, or natural disaster can wipe out all your valuable information, leaving you with no way to recover it.
“This means that years of hard work can all be lost in an instant, with no chance of retrieval. Even the cost of losing just a portion of your important data can be immeasurable, with potential financial, legal, and reputational implications that can last for years.”
Given how important data backups are, you’d be forgiven for thinking that experts had detailed technical advice for securing your information. However, the process can be as simple or as complex as you like.
Individuals might be content to email copies of sensitive files to themselves, keeping them in a server controlled by their email provider. Meanwhile, organisations will probably have more robust measures that automate the process.
As part of its campaign, World Backup Day urges people to make the following pledge:
Although that’s a great start, you need to get in the habit of backing up your data on a regular basis. Any time you create a new file or amend an existing one, you must ensure that the data is secured.
It’s therefore worth taking the time to figure out a system that suits your needs. The information you save should be stored in a secure location that enables you to find the documents you need easily.
Online vs offline backups
The most common solution for backups is to store your data in the Cloud. Apple iCloud, Dropbox, Google Drive and Microsoft OneDrive are common Cloud storage providers, which enable people to quickly save duplicates in an online server.
The process is often automatic, and it comes with the added benefit of allowing people to access data on one device that was created in another. This is handy if you have a photo saved on your phone that you want to display on your laptop, or if you want to share a file with someone else.
However, the benefits of the Cloud have seen it take on mythic status among its proponents. There is a mistaken belief that you can simply put whatever information you like into the Cloud and it’ll be safe forever.
But like any other Internet-connected system, the Cloud contains vulnerabilities that can be exploited. This means that servers can be rendered temporarily unavailable, or the data can viewed by unauthorised parties. Worse still, it could be permanently wiped.
There’s no doubt that the Cloud is an ideal way to conveniently secure your files, particularly if you need to regularly access or amend them.
However, if you have highly classified data or want to be certain that the information won’t be compromised, we recommend storing another set of backups offline.
For example, you might keep your data on a USB stick or a portable hard drive. This ensures that you have versions of the data that are protected from cyber criminals or third-party technical failure.
This isn’t a foolproof solution because these devices can also be damaged or lost, but there is a much lower risk of this happening.