Back Up Your Shit People!

My jaw dropped when I read on Lifehacker that blogging service JournalSpace went under a few days ago because all of their data got erased!  More specifically, according to JournalSpace themselves:

Journalspace is no more. Here is what happened: the server which held the journalspace data had two large drives in a RAID configuration. As data is written (such as saving an item to the database), it’s automatically copied to both drives, as a backup mechanism. The value of such a setup is that if one drive fails, the server keeps running, using the remaining drive. Since the remaining drive has a copy of the data on the other drive, the data is intact. The administrator simply replaces the drive that’s gone bad, and the server is back to operating with two redundant drives. But that’s not what happened here. There was no hardware failure. Both drives are operating fine; DriveSavers had no problem in making images of the drives. The data was simply gone. Overwritten.

OK.  I’m no expert, but backing up a website isn’t that hard.  Backing up all of your files isn’t that hard. It’s not so much HOW you do it, but just that you do it.   There are a variety of ways of doing so – from external hard drives, to online storage solutions like Dropbox, and about 100 more.  To each his own, so long as you do something.

Here’s what I/we do:

For our websites:

LiquidWeb offers a service for a few hundred dollars a month that mirrors our server in “real-time” at a different location.  Seemingly if disaster struck, they could get us up and running in minutes.  We opted for a much cheaper solution that puts us in control.  In the event that LiquidWeb’s facility gets hit with a natural disaster, we don’t want to be one of thousands requesting our new server get set up ASAP.  Instead, we automated nightly FTP backups of each of our sites using this nifty script for automatic cPanel backups.  In the event of disaster, I simply take the .zip file with all of our code and databases, upload it to a new web host that uses cPanel, point our domains to the new host, and we’re up and running.  Where do we send the files each night?  We purchased a hosting account with a popular web host that gives us unlimited bandwidth and unlimited storage for less than $10/mo (I don’t want to mention their name in case they don’t exactly approve of my massive FTP transfers each night).  I check on the backups weekly and only keep one month’s worth of files on the server.

For our work files:

We’ve gone completely web based.  Email, documents, wiki’s, etc are all stored online using Google Apps, and I trust that Google does a solid job of backing everything up :).  All of our code and databases are obviously stored online.  My computer could die tomorrow morning and I’d just drive over to Best Buy and be working on a new laptop by afternoon.

For my personal files:

I do not use Windows default folders for documents, music, etc.  Instead, I create a separate partition and create one “Adam” folder with subfolders work, music, pictures, etc.  Once a month I copy the entire “Adam” folder to an external hard drive.  I only do it monthly because quite frankly these things aren’t critical and don’t change very often.  I prefer this method to automatically “ghosting” my configuration because, again, I can get up and running quickly on a new computer in a matter of minutes using my external hard drive.  And if for some reason my apartment caught on fire and I lost both hard drives at once, I woud care a lot more about other things than my college projects, some digital photos, and my music collection (which is also backed up on my iPod by the way).

Bottom line: in this day and age there is no excuse for not having good backups of important stuff.  The cost – both in time and money – is so minimal relative to the high risk of not doing so. And it’s not like this never happens – every single person I know has had a hard drive fail on them at one time or another.

Be smart people. Back up your shit.

1 comment on Back Up Your Shit People!

  1. […] but the ones that are kept locally are organized under one folder that is backed up regularly (explained here).   I like to keep my desktop free of any files unless I’m working on them at the moment or […]

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