My ‘BackITUp’ Plan – What’s yours?


At work, we’re currently trying to emphasise the importance to Students of backing up their work, through a new project called ‘BackITUp’. My friend Andy has a good post over at his site (linked here ). In the office, we’ve all discussed our various means and methods to back up our work, but it’s striking to see both creativity in solutions, but also the depth of them. Another colleague, for example, backs up his work to purely cloud based sources and has a few physical copies here and there, whilst another one, needed some time to contemplate.

Learning the ‘hard way’

Admittedly, a few years ago, I wasn’t the best of people to name as a person who has a backup plan. I remember a good many years ago, all I would do is before our annual holiday, I’d take an Acronis disk image of our machines before locking them away. In the same place where the computers were. Luckily, nothing came of this, but it demonstrates that some people, myself included, aren’t fully aware of a good backup plan. That said, I’ve now grown my plan to be multi-fold.

My ‘BackITUp’ plan

In the centre of my home is a Windows Home Server (v1), which is a glorified Windows Small Business Server 2003 box with some extras, such as remote access, web hosting and then some. I’ve added a few roles to it, thanks to Microsoft’s SBS tools being part of the install, where WHS v2 (Vail) didn’t have it, providing RADIUS authentication for our wireless network. I digress. With Windows Home Server v1, disk ‘pools’ were treated as JBOD, but thanks to the inner workings by Microsoft, they had a pseudo-RAID configuration, where disk duplication was provided. All files on the server were put onto three separate drives, so that should one disk fail, I could just shove another in, and the job is done. Also provided is the Windows Home Server ‘connector’ which still works on Windows 8.1, even though WHS has been unsupported (with the exception of patching) for some time now. This connector allows for hot disk images to be taken of the machine and its structure and stored on the server. If a machine needs restoring, either you can mount that backup like any normal drive through the connector, or use a provided ISO to connect to the server and reimage to bring you back to where you were. Nifty!
I also take full disk directory backups of the machines every now and then on my external harddrive, to be sure. That said, I also employ the use of several cloud services, such as Dropbox and my own Virtual Cloud of VPSs to hold key documents such as my dissertation so that there’s version control and it’s distributed across at least 3 servers I control and Dropbox to keep the copies intact. That’s no mean feat to sync the directories to make sure it’s up to date, but it’s got to be done.
My laptops really can be treated as ‘thin clients’ as they might have data on the harddrives, but since it’s backed up and abstracted away, it’s accessible elsewhere at all times. There are some documents I keep on the laptops, which might be sensitive for me, but those are kept encrypted on my personal cloud, and never touch Dropbox. These laptops also receive a regular backup onto an external harddrive, where I give the drive to my parents to be secured away, with the hope I’ll never need to ask them for it. There’s a really good video – DefCon Laptop Stolen which demonstrates what happened when a laptop was stolen, so this is a good way to be prepared.

That’s all folks!

So there’s a glimpse of my ‘BackITUp’ plan. Your results may vary, but it’s served me well so far. What’s your BackITUp plan?

July 2014

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