If you have been reading this newsletter for a while, you already know that I am a fanatic about making backup copies of important information, then storing those backed up files in different locations, including off-site. I have heard dozens of stories from genealogists describing how their many years of family tree research were lost due to hard drive crashes, software problems, human error, or distant hackers.
The problem hit home yesterday: My desktop computer encountered an error while performing an operating system update and lost everything. It locked up. Eventually, I powered it off and then powered it back on again. The computer wouldn’t even boot! I soon realized I had lost everything on the computer’s hard drive.
If it happened to me, it could happen to you.
Luckily, my zeal for making backups paid off. I went to one of my backup copies and restored everything on the hard drive within a few hours. I mean everything. The restore process copied back all my data files as well as the operating system, hidden files, all the installed application software, and more. When finished, I rebooted the system and it came up and ran, looking exactly like it had looked a few hours earlier. I lost nothing.
Can you say the same after your computer crashes?
In my case, I am using a Macintosh iMac. However, the same need for backups is true for Windows, Linux, Macintosh, and other operating systems.
I am using three different backup products. (I told you I was a backup fanatic!)
TimeMachine makes a backup of the Mac’s entire hard drive every hour and stores the backups in encrypted form on an external USB drive that connects to a connector on the back of the computer. TimeMachine is a free product included with every Macintosh system.
Arq makes a backup of all data files (not the operating system, hidden files, temporary files, or other unneeded files). It then encrypts the backed up files and stores them (in my case) on Amazon’s S3 very secure file storage service in the cloud.
MEGAsync makes an immediate backup of all my data files that I have stored in my Documents folder as soon as each file is saved, encrypts the backed up files, and stores them on MEGAsync’s super secure file storage service in the cloud at mega.nz.
Is this a perfect system of backups? Probably not, but it certainly worked well yesterday when my primary desktop computer wouldn’t even boot!
I use TimeMachine as my primary backup service for two reasons:
(1.) It uses an external hard drive that is plugged into the back of my computer. Local hardware connections are much faster than remote connections to servers in the cloud. The result is a much faster method of restoring files than storing files in the cloud. I performed a complete restore in about 6 hours. Had I restored everything from a remote server in the cloud, restoring more than 2 terabytes of my files would have required several days to complete. (Some services will copy your files to a flash drive or USB hard drive and send the drive to you via overnight air freight.)
(2.) TimeMachine backups up EVERYTHING: data files, operating system, hidden files, the hard drive’s (hidden) boot record, and every thing else on the computer. When my computer wouldn’t even boot yesterday, TimeMachine put everything back in place. Once the restore was completed, I booted the system up and it looked exactly the same as it had looked a few hours earlier, before the crash. I could not have done that with a backup system that only saves data files.
The other backup products I use, Arq and MEGAsync, are there for insurance purposes. I only back up critical data files with those programs. Also, restoring files from a cloud-based server is slower as it is dependent on the speed of the Internet connection being used. In the case of a computer that won’t boot, using one of these last two products would have required other means to reload the operating system onto the computer again, then re-installing every program I use, one at a time. Having multiple copies of critical data files is (1.) good for insurance purposes and (2.) very useful when upgrading to a new computer or to a new laptop system.
Following the crash of my computer yesterday, I was up and running again in about 6 hours with more than 2 terabytes of files restored properly to my computer’s hard drive. If your computer crashes later today, will you be able to say the same?
For more information on some great backup programs, see my recent article that I published in PrivacyBlog.com at: https://privacyblog.com/2018/01/19/which-backup-products-are-good-ones/