How often are you testing your backup?
Is Your Online Backup Working? How to Test Your Backup
Everyone should be backing up, right? Sure. Backups, though, aren’t important. If you want to get your data back, the thing you should be worried about is the restore. Can you restore your data? A backup you can’t restore data from is worthless. Don’t assume no news is good news from your backups. You test your smoke detector at least twice a year. Now’s the time to test your backups on that same schedule.
Why You Can’t Restore from your Backup
You aren’t backing up the right files Most backup programs and services give you a report that the backup was successful. That only tells you part of the story. You know something was probably backed up, but aren’t sure what files those are. Programs sometimes store data in unusual places. Quickbooks for example often puts its files in the Public folder in Windows. Some backup programs will only backup the user folder. The programs can also move the data folder after an upgrade but the backup program has no way of knowing that.
You can’t log into your backups Online backup services have protections in place to prevent hackers from getting your data. Many software backup programs let you put a password on your backup and many backup software providers let you encrypt your data with your own encryption key. However If you forget that key you may not be able to restore your data.
You don’t have the software or skills to do the restore With online services, you can usually just download the software and begin the restore. If your hard drive fails you’ll need not just a backup of the software, but a version that is compatible with your computer. That’s a particular problem when you upgrade your operating system or switch platforms like going from PC to Mac.
Programs can be confusing and I think backup software tends to be really hard. If you don’t do it right you can accidentally overwrite good data. The worst time to learn how to do a restore is just after your hard drive has crashed. That’s why you need to practice a restore.
Can You Fall Back on your Backup
Just like we’re reminded to test our smoke alarms twice a year, that beep should remind us to check our backups. It takes a bit more time and effort than pressing a button, but not by much. Before you do a test restore, do a final backup. That way if you overwrite data during the restore accidentally, you won’t lose anything.
Test your mission critical data file first You know which file that is. The one that you can’t live without. The one you’d pay a data recovery service thousands of dollars to recover. Each program will be different, but the goal is to be able to find that important data file on your backup. After you figure out where it is, restore the file to your desktop. I always recommend the desktop because you’ll run the least risk of overwriting the data.
Test some pictures for restoration In my experience, photos are the data people get the most upset about losing. Pictures capture moments and memories that will never happen again. When they are lost they can never be recreated. Pick three random pictures from your library and restore them your desktop.
Test a few random files Try to pick files from different folder/directories and don’t pick the same files you did in steps 1 or 2 as you might find that those files are okay, but nothing else is backed up. The only rule is don’t pick the same random files each time. After all, they need to be random.
If you do this twice a year, you’ll make sure that those backups aren’t just files stored somewhere. They are files that can be counted on and relied upon to be there when disaster strikes.