The most common backup media for individuals is an external hard drive. There are however two problems with this setup for nomads:
- Weight of external hard drive
- Though it protects you from hard drive failure and accidental deletions, it won’t help you if your backpack with your computer and your external hard drive in it is stolen.
If you are involved in any kind of online business, a reliable backup solution is especially important. And the problem with backups is – you only think about them when you need them and not before.
So you want to automate everything and make it as easy as possible.
If you want to have a backup of your data that you can access, even if all of your possessions are stolen, you need an offsite backup. But how to make an offsite backup without constantly going “offsite”? An online backup is the way to go.
With all the WikiLeasks news and other privacy disasters you might feel uneasy to purposely upload your private data to the cloud. I can understand that. Therefore a very important criteria for an online backup solution is that the encryption and decryption of your data is handled on your system. All uploaded data will be already AES-256 encrypted and neither your backup host nor the CIA can access your data.
There are a lot of services which provide unlimited backup space for a monthly flat fee. You have to be very careful with that however. Unlimited only means that they won’t tell you in advance how much space you are allowed to use. Those services tend to cancel subscriptions with heavy-duty users, go bankrupt or save money on data security.
If you want to have maximum security for a fair price use Amazon S3. S3 is part of the Amazon Web Services and has redundant data centers mirroring your data in different locations. Though any company could possible face bankruptcy, it will be less likely happen to Amazon in the next years. As Amazon S3 provides only an API to store object on their web service, you still need a decent Backup software.
JungleDisk is a very robust multi-platform (Windows, Mac, Linux) backup software that uses Amazon S3 or alternatively their own Rackspace Cloudfiles service to store the data. Important for nomads with suboptimal internet connections: the JungleDisk network protocol layer is very robust and background backup uploads even work with very bad internet connections and thousands of resume operations.
I suggest to separate the files you want to backup into two categories:
- Data (program code, documents, plans, SRS data, mails, …)
- Storage (Music, Videos, Photos, all the bulky stuff …)
All of your data will reside in an encrypted TrueCrypt container file that can be mounted as a virtual disk drive. TrueCrypt is an encryption tool that allows you to create encrypted container files. For example you create a 10GB container file that can be mounted and gets the driver letter u: on a windows system. All data you put on drive u: will be instantly encrypted and stored in the container file.
There are several benefit if you store all your data in that encrypted container file:
- You can use it as a normal drive, but to make a backup you just copy the container file to your backup media which is much faster than copying 10.000′s individual files.
- You do not need to figure out where all your important files are. You will get used to configure every software to only save data on drive U: and all you have to worry about is to backup your container file.
- You have one more layer of security when backing up your container file to the cloud as it is encrypted itself.
- Your data is encrypted and won’t be compromised if your computer gets stolen. (Although I would recommend a full system drive encryption anyway – I will write about that in a later article)
Backup to a USB Stick
My second backup method I use, is a daily backup of my data container file to a USB stick. If I am in an area with no or slow internet connection so that my storage files can not be backed up online in a reasonable amount of time, I copy all new digital camera photos etc. on it as well until they are backed up online. I use a 128GB USB Stick for that but if your space requirements are lower, an SD-Card will do it as well. It is even easier to carry, as you can put in in your purse. I never put the USB-Stick in my backpack, so if it gets stolen with my computer I still have the USB-Stick.
As all my data is already encrypted and packaged in one single file, no fancy backup software is needed. I just need to copy the container file to the USB-Stick. As your container file is in use while mounted, the normal windows copy function won’t work for this. I use HoboCopy which makes use of the Volume Shadow Service (VSS) to copy the data container while it is mounted. It is a command line tool, so a simple batch files allows me to do daily backup process with one double-click.
I suggest one of the following media which are both very fast:
Backup Time for a 10GB data file: ~6 Minutes
Restore is more Important than Backup
You do not want to make a backup. You want to be able to restore it, when you need it. Some people do regular daily, weekly and monthly backups since years but never ever tried to restore any data. Whatever backup solution you have, you should try to restore data and see how fast you can recover from an emergency before it actually happens.
Copying my data backup from the USB stick is done in a few minutes. Restoring ~100GB of storage data from the cloud takes a few days but usually you won’t need everything immediately and can restore important files first. Amazon AWS has a very good connection from anywhere that allows a fast restore, which can not be said for some smaller online backup providers.
The last resort – Offsite Backup
I still do a Backup of my storage data to an external hard drive once a year. It is stored in a safety deposit box of my bank. So if for some reason my computer gets stolen and a hacker deletes all my stuff from Amazon S3 at the same time, I still have a backup of my photos etc. with a maximum of one year data missing in the worst case.
title image by neospire