A Guide To Data Backups

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Just as people’s age can often be gleaned by their taste in music or their idea of what constitutes a classic car, it’s sometimes possible to age an IT manager according to their earliest memories of data storage. For some it’ll be a freestanding reel-to-reel tape machine that resembled a lopsided owl. For others, nostalgia will take the form of a 5.25” floppy disc drive, while younger IT professionals may even have cut their teeth on a CD-RW drive.

Here and now in 2015, data backup has become a highly sophisticated process. FTTP cabling and 10,000RPM SATA hard drives are capable of transferring huge amounts of information in minimal timeframes, without requiring anything as cumbersome as manually swapping storage devices. However, modern technology has also produced a variety of different storage media, from solid state to the cloud. Deciding which one suits your requirements is a highly subjective decision, depending on everything from the frequency of backups to file types and their overall size.

With this in mind, we have assembled a beginner’s guide to selecting the most appropriate method of data backup:

  1. The cloud. A ubiquitous presence nowadays, cloud storage is abundantly available. As an illustration, VPS.NET presently have 19 data centres around the world, from Montreal to Tokyo. Each centre contains temperature-controlled hosting infrastructure monitored around the clock by CCTV, with 2.25 megawatt generators providing backup power and fire suppression systems ready to kick in should any hardware become too hot to handle. It’s also possible to upload data to a dedicated cloud storage site like Dropbox, which is compatible with Linux xattrs and supports everything from PHP to Java files. In the interests of balance, storage from other cloud hosting companies is also available.
  2. Hard disk drives. Many companies still prefer to backup data offline, and specifically in their own premises. This is where hard drives can come into their own. It’s now possible to buy a 10TB hard drive, and a typical 4TB drive can be yours for little more than $100. Today’s HDDs are increasingly being filled with helium to minimise friction and reduce their power usage, while a 128MB cache buffer makes these devices ideal for RAID environments.

    It’s worth pointing out that some Linux users have reported issues with SATA drives, while the internet is awash with arguments between rival fans of Western Digital and Seagate HDDs. Personal preferences (or prejudices) will inevitably play a part in any purchasing decision.

  3. USB. If your storage requirements extend to gigabytes rather than terabytes, USB flash drives represent an affordable option. There’s something reassuringly simplistic about a data key, something that can be carried in a wallet or clipped onto a set of keys despite being capable of storing every piece of digital data many companies will ever generate.

    Modern flash drives are water resistant and shockproof, and 256GB of solid state storage is relatively commonplace nowadays. These thumb-sized devices represent the pinnacle of plug-and-play drag-and-drop simplicity, making them easy for relative IT novices to operate.

  4. Optical storage. DVD burners represent a time-honoured way of depositing several gigabytes of information onto a medium that can supposedly withstand being thrown off a tower block or washed in Fairy Liquid. The familiar presence of DVD-RW drives within desktop computers makes them an obvious choice for occasional offline data storage.

    To traditionalists who grew up with the floppy disks mentioned earlier, CD and DVD backups retains a degree of appeal. However, in the age of 256GB flash drives and cloud storage this method of data backup is becoming increasingly unfashionable despite its proud legacy of dependable service.

Check out our healthy guide to server backups in this infographic!

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