The Definition of Backup

How do you define backup? Do you consider backup to be data redundancy or are you more in the camp that backup is disaster recovery? Maybe both? Much of our daily lives are stored in 0's and 1's especially our engineering data however how many of us are actually responsible for making sure our engineering data is safe? The common response seems to be "Oh, that is IT's job!"

Talking with engineers, many are aware that the hard disk on their computer will fail at some point but none of them know exactly when. All of us can probably remember times in our past when a HDD failed and the pain it caused and the pain potential is growing with every year that passes.  Look how much more data we generate with our computers today than we did just 5 years ago. 
The statistics are alarming no matter where you find them. Although most of the numbers vary, the ranges seem to be similar. Here is what I found:
  • ~ 4 - 6% of users actually back up their data
  • ~ 30% of business do not check or test their backups
  • ~ 75% of business that do check backups find backup failures = NO BACKUPS!
  • ~ 30% of computers will lose data due to event beyond their control
  • ~ 90% of data backed up is within the same building as the original data.
This list goes on and on with all types of statistics depending on the sources and year the statistics were collected. The trend is if you don't backup it is not a question of "IF", it is a question of "WHEN"! Many understand the impact personally when they lose photos or precious memories of their family but how does that apply to business or better yet, your engineering data? Well the impact can be devastating to a business, especially when the data contains all the lifeblood of the company. For companies that design products, the CAD data is crucial and it's backup methods should be viewed as important as the data itself. For engineers, a loss of their CAD data would obviously push out their completion date but may also crush their ingenuity and innovation drive.
Typically most companies using data servers or even PDM will be running those servers on a RAID configuration, bringing local redundancy to the data.  This is always my recommendation, however data simply being redundant is not "backup" until it resides in another location as well. Whether a big corporation or a single contractor, data backup can be done online, in the cloud with a few interesting services without physical copies being sent to an off-site storage facility.
Here are a few that I have looked at:
Many of these have been evaluated in depth by PC Magazine and most of these solutions have a free model with a few GB of storage, a personal plan and then a business option.  All of these have a "Set it and forget it" mode where you can point the local application to folders you want backed up and they will be copied up to the cloud automatically.  
Personally I wanted to make sure my selection would be with a company I felt confident would be around for the long haul and not have to worry about my "secure data" disappearing because the company went belly up. I currently use the Amazon S3 service which is not an unlimited, flat fee service but I use it with a $20 program called JungleDisk which is the client interface that automates the backups to S3 automatically. I chose this for my own use due to the AMAZON name as well as the costs associated (pay for use).  One of the most compelling offerings has been Microsoft's with a big focus on cloud computing services. SkyDrive is a free service and is offering 25GB of online storage for free! So that may be a great place to start looking.

These type of services are popping up all over the Net and can give great automatic backup of your local data quickly. The trick is to actually do it! The days of having physical copies of our designs are behind us and all of what we design is now electronic. Much of our in-process design work is stored on our local machines outside of our company's infrastructure and backup loops so that data is susceptible to loss. Take the opportunity to make sure your data is safe where ever it is (local machine, network drives, etc) and make a copy somewhere you can't walk to in 1 minute to ensure that your mind is free of worry and can focus on innovation! ~Lou