Are you doing a “True” backup?

cryptolocker virus

Are you doing a “True” backup?  What’s a “True” backup?  Many people don’t backup at all which is mind blowing, because I do a lot of data recoveries and when I have to repair computers I ask when the last backup was done and it’s either a very long time or never.  But there are those people that do backups, but the take the lazy route and leave their external hard drives plugged in the whole time which does their backups automatically.  This would be fine except they never unplug them or switch drives.  That’s not good if you get an encryption virus or theft.  The backup would be gone along with the computer.  Then there are those people who think cloud storage like iDrive, Google Drive, Sky Drive, etc is considered a backup.  Those are cloud storage drives, not backup drives.

What is the definition of a backup?
A backup is at least one other copy of your data located on another device that is not plugged into your computer.

So let’s break it down as highlighted in bold.  A copy of your data means a copy of it, not online cloud storage like I mentioned earlier.  Those cloud drives are connected to your computer and synced automatically immediately.  If you delete the file or something happens to it, it’s synced to the cloud and permanent immediately.  If you think you can just access it from your other computer/device, you’re wrong.  Because it’s cloud based it’s the same problem across all devices.

Being on another device is important because if it’s just a copy on your computer, it’s fine if you accidentally delete it or gets corrupted or screwed up, you can just restore the other file.  But if the computer crashes you lost it all.  This might sound obvious to some of you, but there are some people that confuse C and D drive on the computer as two separate drives but many times they are the same physical drive.  So if that hard drive dies, but C and D (virtual drives) are gone.

Having the backup not plugged into your computer is critical for another reason.  If you keep the external hard drive plugged into your computer at all times, although it’s convenient to backup on a schedule, you’d be screwed if you got infected with an encryption virus.  Unless you are rotating drives, then the other backup drive would be fine at least.

What’s an encryption virus?
I had a client recently that this happened to.  They had two external hard drives plugged into the computer at the same time, so they had backups of backups and it sounded to them like they were really covered.  They got a virus that encrypted everything.  They lost everything!

How did this happen?  A virus that encrypted the contents of the computer and everything plugged into it.  Both backup drives were plugged in.  So the virus then prompted them to pay in some strange currency which was the equivalent of $500 USD.  Either pay the money or say goodbye to your files, pictures, music, movies, downloads, etc.

So encryption viruses are the biggest reason why the 3rd part of the definition of a backup is important.  If you have a copy of your data stored on another device but it is still connected to your computer for continuous backups, your backups would be useless if you got hit with an encryption virus.  You’d be fine for the other disasters, but you don’t know what disaster will hit you, and that’s the whole point of doing a “True” backup.

NOTE: With encryption viruses, there is no data recovery lab in the world that can recover your files for you.  You need a regular backup and it is your responsibility and yours alone unless you are paying for a managed backup service, but even then, it’s up to you to select all the files you need backed up.  No one else but you knows what you need backed up.

Reasons for backup include the following:

1. Accidental deletion of the file
2. Bad edits and you need a previous version of the file before those changes where made
3. The computer crashes or virus deletes everything
4. An encryption type virus encrypts all your files and holds them ransom for money.  (This is the only scenario where the external backup drives that do continuous backups plugged in 24/7 are useless.  You must unplug your backup drive immediately after backup, or have more than one backup device on a rotation)

A “True” backup contains three elements.

1. Copy of your data: You can easily recover the good copy if necessary
2. On another device:  Don’t assume if you have C and D drives built in your computer that they are two separate physical drives.  They are usually the same physical drive.
3. The backup drive does not stay plugged into your computer 24/7:
a. Cloud drives are another device but they are connected to you 24/7 and are not a copy, it’s the same synced data.
b. D drive built in your computer may be a separate physical drive but it is connected 24/7.
c. External drives that run continuous are another device but you must disconnect it when done backup.
d. Online backup services may run continuous or on a schedule and they are on another device, and they are considered disconnected from your computer because it is not a live sync like the cloud drives.  As a bonus, online backup services are also stored offsite, so in the event of a major disaster like fire, theft or flood, it’s important to have the data not only disconnected, but offsite.

So in summary, backup to an external drive, disconnect it when done, and store it offsite.  Use more than one backup device on a rotation.  Use in combination with online backup service as well for extreme fault tolerance.

Now you know, so there’s no excuse to be another victim.