Just a handful of weeks into my senior year of college, I woke up in the middle of the night to the sound of shouting and an eerie glow coming through the miniblinds in my bedroom. After a couple of minutes of sleepy confusion, I got up and took a peek through the blinds.
All I could see was a wall of flames. The carport adjacent to my apartment was completely engulfed in fire. I had to get out, and fast.
I stuffed my cat in a box*, grabbed my school bag (with my laptop) and external hard drive and ran for it. (*Not sure I recommend this, it took far too long… but at least the cat was safe.)
I consider myself extremely lucky. Nobody was hurt in the fire, I was able to grab the things I needed most, and all I lost were clothes and furniture.
What if I hadn’t had time and lost my laptop and hard drive?
- I would have lost years of my personal diary
- I’d lose a decade of photos
- All the work I’d done on my senior thesis would be gone
… and this was long before I’d started a business. If I lost my laptop and hard drive after starting a business, the stakes would be far higher.
Is “figure out how to back up my data” on your to-do list? Has it been there a while?
Finding a way to back up your data off-site is one of those things that’s in the “not urgent” and “super important” quadrant. But too often it stays there on the list for months and years without getting done. (I am completely guilty of this too.)
For those of you who know you should get your data backed up but don’t know where to start, I thought I’d humbly share how we now back up all of our data, so perhaps you can break through the “analysis paralysis” and have the peace of mind of knowing your life’s work is stored somewhere safe.
TL;DR: Our Backup Setup:
Short on time? Here’s the overview:
- We have one “Primary” computer with an attached external hard drive. It’s backed up continuously by ($50/yr)
- We use [eafl id=495 name=”Copy.com” text=”Copy.com*”] for all current / recent business files and blog posts. (Free!)
- On a monthly basis, I move old blog posts from our [eafl id=495 name=”Copy.com” text=”Copy.com*”] folder over to our External Hard drive (Takes ~10 minutes)
- We also have personal [eafl id=502 name=”Dropbox” text=”Dropbox*”] accounts on each computer for non-work related stuff that we want backed up.
- We do NOT backup our laptops, because we are careful to only store valuable info within [eafl id=502 name=”Dropbox” text=”Dropbox*”] or [eafl id=495 name=”Copy.com” text=”Copy.com*”].
Walking Through the Workflow
Part 1: “Working” Storage
In a perfect world, we might get something like Dropbox for Business, but that’d cost us around $50 per month for unlimited storage. But we are still watching our expenses closely, so we instead us a combination of “free” storage and a paid backup service (Part 3).
For our “day to day” working storage, our team (Chris, myself and our Virtual Assistant) each got a free account with [eafl id=495 name=”Copy.com” text=”Copy.com”], which gave us 25GB of free storage. It’s just like Dropbox with a local app and storage that’s available via the web and synchronizes automatically with the cloud. We use this for the data we use frequently. It’s where we keep basically everything except the data for blog posts we have archived (Part 2).
The Best Part: [eafl id=495 name=”Copy.com” text=”Copy.com”] will “split” the storage allocation for shared files. So if our “shared” files for A Bar Above take up 10 GB of space but three people share it, each of us only uses up 3.33 GB of our personal allocation. So with large teams, you can use this to your advantage and get a lot of storage for free!
Side note: we store personal information in [eafl id=502 name=”Dropbox” text=”Dropbox*”], to help keep it separate while still leveraging a free service that’s backed up to the cloud.
Part 2: Monthly Archival
Since we do quite a bit of video, our data storage needs quickly exceeded the capacity of any “normal” computer hard drive – and the capacity of our combined [eafl id=495 name=”Copy.com” text=”Copy.com”] accounts. So Chris found a large external hard drive box that we leave connected to our “Primary” desktop computer. (The drive we have is no longer available, but this one* is pretty close.)
I have a monthly recurring Asana task that reminds me on the first day of the month to do a bit of “cleanup.”
(Yes, I am a day overdue – awkward!)
As you can see, all I have to do to complete this task is hop on our “Main” computer (i.e. our desktop) and move all of the data associated with older content over to our external hard drive. This frees up space in our respective Copy accounts and on our computers, while still making sure everything is backed up (see Part 3!)
This process probably takes me about 10-15 minutes a month, but 99% of that time is just waiting for file transfers, so I can work on other things.
Part 3: Automagical Backups
So all of our “working” data is backed up to the Cloud, because it’s all stored on Copy. What about everything that’s NOT in Copy, including our external hard drive?
That’s where [eafl id=501 name=”Backblaze” text=”Backblaze*”] comes in. For $50 a year, they keep a backup of our desktop computer and its attached external hard drive. (Now you see why I said this is the “Primary” computer!) That computer also has all of our important personal stuff we want backed up (mainly family photos, videos, etc.). So Backblaze picks those up as well.
The key for this being such a reasonably priced solution is that we actually don’t back up either of our laptops. (Backblaze charges on a per-computer basis.) We use Copy for business data (backed up) and we each have a Dropbox that we share for personal stuff, and that’s it. We’ve found that we have enough storage across Dropbox & Copy that we keep everything of value in those two places and just make sure not to save anything important anywhere else.
(Yes, that’s an affiliate link for [eafl id=501 name=”Backblaze” text=”Backblaze*”], but seriously, I really highly recommend it. For $50 a year it’s worth the peace of mind! Plus, I think they offer a 15 day trial. 🙂
Living in the Clouds
How do you back up your business? If it’s still at the bottom of your list, I beg you – at least get something like [eafl id=501 name=”Backblaze” text=”Backblaze*”] This whole workflow would probably take an hour or two to set up, but getting [eafl id=501 name=”Backblaze” text=”Backblaze*”] running is only about 10 minutes – so start there and build out something fancy later!