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6 Data Backup Mistakes That Increase Your Risk of Data Loss

November 8, 2021

computer desk scene with screens and keyboardAt, we offer professional data recovery services for all types of digital storage devices. Through our full-service laboratories, we can quickly restore data in most scenarios, and we offer a no data, no charge guarantee to give our clients peace of mind.

However, data recovery should be a last resort: With a solid backup strategy, you may never need to use our services. Below, we’ll look at a few of the most common data backup mistakes and provide some guidance for building a better plan.

1. Trusting a single backup with mission-critical data.

Redundancy is a critical component of a strong backup strategy. Every storage device eventually fails — yes, that applies to flash memory and solid-state drives, too — and some failure scenarios (such as natural disasters or ransomware attacks) may take out several of your devices at once.

We recommend maintaining at least three copies of important data, including at least one offsite copy. This isn’t as labor-intensive as it sounds: Invest in a backup hard drive and a cloud backup service, and you’ve built a better backup strategy than 95% of computer users.

2. Backing up your data inconsistently or infrequently.

If your computer failed today, would you be able to recover? Your backup might provide essential copies of important files, but chances are, it wouldn’t provide an up-to-date copy of every file on your computer.

One of our clients recently ran into this problem. She’s a writer, and she backs up her work every week; however, she writes every day. Her laptop failed towards the end of her backup schedule, and her work over that period was worth thousands of dollars.

Fortunately, our engineers were able to restore her data (and dozens of hours of lost work). The moral of the story: Rebuilding your work can take time. If you’d lose several days or weeks of work, consider whether you should backup more frequently.

3. Forgetting to back up data from a certain source.

You’re backing up data from your personal computer, but are you also backing up your laptop? What about your mobile devices? What about your office computer?

Every system that stores important data deserves redundant backup. Consider the worst-case scenario, then plan accordingly. Remember, any device can (and eventually will) fail.

4. Not checking your backups regularly.

If you don’t check your backups, they may not be helpful in an emergency. We frequently receive media from clients who say that they backed up regularly — but because they never tested their backups, they didn’t realize that they were backing up corrupt or unusable files.

This can be especially problematic if you use a cloud backup service. When files become unreadable, the errors within those files may be replicated to the copy in the cloud. Needless to say, this limits the usefulness of the backup.

Look for an online backup service that can restore data from different points in time. Think about utilizing a secondary backup device (such as an external hard drive or solid-state drive) to make sure your data is available when you need it. Get into the habit of checking your backups for important files — open them and make sure they operate as expected. If you’re backing up files for a business, run occasional recovery drills to make sure you’ve got an effective plan in place when a disaster occurs.

5. Not keeping an air-gapped “golden copy” backup.

This entry applies primarily to large enterprises (although there’s a lesson here for personal computer users, too).

The growing threat of ransomware has highlighted the importance of air-gapped backup. Air-gapped backups are not connected to a network — if the primary system becomes infected with malicious software, the air-gapped media will still be usable.

As ransomware has evolved, bad actors have used more inventive methods to bypass common backup strategies. Some ransomware variants wait for months after infection to activate in order to destroy all backup copies of the target data. Enterprises can limit this risk by keeping a “golden copy” of mission-critical data; while some amount of data loss will occur during an attack, the systems can still be restored to a usable condition while IT administrators explore their disaster recovery options.

If you’re backing up data on your personal computer, consider keeping one off-network copy of important data. By storing data on an external hard drive or optical disk, you can ensure that a ransomware attack won’t leave you in a precarious position.

6. Not backing up your data — period.

Today, consumers have excellent options for creating backup strategies — but if you’re not backing up at all, you’re not alone. According to one 2018 survey, 24% of adult computer owners in the United States never back up their data. Only 6% of respondents said that they backed up their data daily, and only 11% backed up on a weekly basis.

Don’t take risks with important files. If you’ve never backed up your data, today’s a great day to get started. Some important tips to keep in mind:

  • Keep at least three copies of important files, including an offsite copy.
  • Set up backups to run automatically.
  • Choose a backup frequency that minimizes your chances of lost work.
  • Backup all of your devices (not just your primary computer).
  • Check your backups occasionally and make sure they’re usable.

If you’ve lost data, we’re here to help. Contact us at 1-800-237-4200 or click here to schedule a free evaluation at one of our facilities.