The Rule of Two

All things being equal, the most valuable thing on your computer is your data. Operating systems and programs can be reinstalled (assuming you have the original media), but your data is irreplaceable. A good backup strategy will plan for the worst possible scenario and ensure that your precious data is never lost. Believe me, this is a whole lot faster and less expensive than trying to recover photos of your grandmother’s 100th birthday party from a defunct hard drive.

In this article we’ll explore the basic concepts of a balanced backup strategy. We’ll address the actual mechanics of backing up in another article.

There is a simple rule that will help you remember this basic principle. I call it “The Rule of Two”. Simply stated, it says:

  • Your data should always reside on at least two different physical devices, and
  • Your data should always be in at least two different physical locations.

Rule 1: Your data should always reside on at least two different physical devices

This simply means that your data (documents, pictures, videos, etc.) should always be backed up from your computer hard drive to another separate device such as an external hard drive, flash drive or network drive. You can use Windows built-in backup for this or one of many third party options.

Rule 2: Your data should always reside in at least two different physical locations

The basic premise here is to imagine and plan for the worst possible scenario: a major disaster such as a broken water pipe, flood, or fire destroys both your computer and the attached backup drive. Yes, you religiously backed up all your data every day, but if your backup is in the same physical location as your computer, a major disaster would likely destroy both, rendering your comprehensive backups completely useles.

This is where cloud storage comes into play. Of course, if you’re a business you will likely want to invest a bit more to get more secure online backups, and if you’re in a profession with a higher industry standard for privacy such as medical, legal, or financial, you will need to ensure that your backup destination meets your industry requirements.

Fortunately, online or cloud backups have become so common and inexpensive as to virtually remove price from the equation, and are certainly more economical than the specter of losing the last five years of your business or patient records.