Back Up, back up, back up!!!

I’ve been in business for over 10 years now, and in that time I’ve learned many lessons about this business—and about running a business in general. One of the most important ones, especially these days, is also one of the first: BACK UP YOUR DATA.

Unfortunately, last month I made a mistake that I don’t think I’ve done in years: I performed a significant update on a clients’ site without making sure to back up their data first.

Fortunately, it turned out that I did have a backup of the data in question—from over a year earlier. Thankfully, in this particular case, nothing had changed with that data over the course of the year, so I was able to restore it to the original state for the client seamlessly. Unfortunately, I lost almost a week’s worth of working time hunting down the solution.

I confess this incident to make two points: First, that even those of us “in the business” sometimes forget to back up our data—with potentially devastating results. Secondly, in case you haven’t gotten the point yet: BACK UP YOUR DATA.

There are any number of methods for this—external hard drives, USB thumbdrives, DVDs, or even online storage services. There’s also a bevy of software solutions which can streamline and automate this process for you, regardless of which operating system or platform you’re using.

My own preferred methodology is:

  • NIGHTLY: An software script (I use a Mac-specific solution called Déjà vu) automatically backs up all of the days’ changes and updates (email, client files, etc) to an external FireWire hard drive, which copies over the previous days’ backup. This ensures that if my main drive fails, my crucial documents will be out of date by no more than one day.
  • MONTHLY: The same script automatically backs everything up to a *second* external hard drive. This ensures that if it takes a few days to realize that something *shouldn’t* have been changed, I can restore it to what it was less than a month earlier. (This is also where I made the mistake referred to above—I forgot to reset this script after replacing my main computer last fall.)
  • ANNUALLY: Once a year, I’ll do a full “hard” backup of pretty much everything to DVD-ROM, then store these in a fire-resistant safe (I’ll be getting a fireproof safe soon). This is what saved the day for me in the example above.

However, this is just how I do it. Your own backup solution may vary. There's a number of popular titles available for both Mac OS X and Windows; here's just a sampling:

Recommended Mac OS X Backup software titles:

Recommended Windows Backup software titles (I'm not a Windows user, so I'm relying on reviews by

The bottom line is, whatever method you choose, make sure to back up your data regularly!