Every now and then, you should review and revamp your backup strategy. Joe Rosberg explains his backup and storage process for an architectural firm that includes hard disk drives rather than tape. 


Every so often, I review and revamp my backup strategy. Although many would disagree with me, I’ve avoided tape backups for years. Instead, the media of choice for my backup files is the hard disk drive. It’s simple; the files are easy to find and retrieve; and it can accommodate a multi-tiered backup strategy. (However, I will acknowledge, that providing a backup strategy for 25-30 people is different than doing it for hundreds or thousands of users.)

While I can’t back up every iteration of every file, I do provide a daily backup, a weekly backup, a monthly backup, and a longer term quarterly archive saved to DVD; in addition, I provide an off-site backup by way of an eSATA external hard drive enclosure that I rotate weekly. (Maybe I’ll start doing this daily, and perhaps even do it over the Internet.) Hard drives are very inexpensive, and the capacity is getting larger all the time. I can easily put every file in the office onto a 500GB drive and still have some room to grow. As that need does grow, I’ll just start using some 1TB drives (currently available for a very low price in the $200 range).

Being in the building design industry, my users often want to go back and retrieve an older version of a design file, wanting the version that might be a week or more old, even though the file was changed and updated daily. I’m probably about 95 percent successful in being able to retrieve the iteration they want, realizing that some will simply fall through the cracks. I simply copy the files from Point-A to Point-B by way of running a number of scheduled batch files. Spread out over a half-dozen hard drives, I can save several versions of the same file, but saved from a different point in time. Although it’s not perfect, the system has worked pretty well for me.

Oh yeah, the horror story. Luckily, it’s not mine.

I recently ran across a news item that many of you have probably already seen: one about an employee at a Florida architectural firm who saw an ad for a new hire, listing the phone number of her boss. Thinking she was about to be fired and replaced, she went into their office one night, logged into their network from her own computer (no one claimed she was smart!), and deleted all the files on the network. It turns out that her boss’s wife placed the ad for a different company, and that’s why the phone number was the same. Suffice it to say, she did indeed lose her job, although it was not in jeopardy before this incident.

Her boss has said that she deleted seven years worth of drawing files, valued at upwards of 2.5 million dollars. He went on to say that he was able to retrieve those files, but only by paying for an expensive data-recovery service. Wait a minute, I thought. If that happened to me – and I am in the same industry – I would have had those files on a backup drive, one to which no one else has easy access, not to mention my off-site backup which is never more than a week old. (This is what’s made me consider taking my off-site backup out on a daily basis instead of weekly.)

I am amazed that this architectural firm didn’t have a better backup strategy.

Do you have any backup tips that you’d care to share? Any horror stories about backups?