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“The unobserved goes out of date very quickly…”

I love this expression. I heard it on the radio about a year ago and it was attributed to a 19th century US President (I didn’t catch his name). It was used in a modern day military debate about how the UK has found itself without an active aircraft carrier, due to a new carrier not being commissioned years ago. Now when a carrier would be quite handy to have floating around the High Seas we find we don’t have one and consequently have to find other more costly workaround solutions and somewhat exposed.

As this debate rumbled on, I thought to myself that this expression can be applied to an IT perspective and attitudes towards data backups. It could be translated as follows “don’t assume your automated backups are doing what you want because tomorrow you might have an issue that proves otherwise”.

Often a Mac user will get a little warning or message pop up on the screen that suggests something is wrong with an automated backup system but more often enough they choose to ignore it or find ways around it until it becomes part of their routine. It starts to become unobserved, unmonitored and forgotten. Months or even years later the inevitable happens, a hard drive fails or more commonly some data accidentally is deleted. The automated backup you thought was merrily doing its thing actually packed up months moths ago so your backup is next to useless. This is a surprisingly common scenario.

So what can you do to monitor and ensure your backups are regular and correct?

1). The most important thing is to understand the concept behind the backup solution you choose. Do you need to ensure a hard drive is connected or the correct tape is inserted? Is your cloud-based backup subscription is fully paid up? Understand the logs. Take expert advice if in any doubt.

2) Make sure that you ensure the correct data is being backed-up - Ask an expert if you are unsure where your mail or photos are stored. It would be a crying shame when you come to restore your backup you find that have been backing up the wrong stuff all this time!

3) All automated backup solutions will have an icon in the main menu bar and the backup status is only one click away. It is starring you in the face every day. Identify this icon and check on it daily.

4) React immediately to an error in the backup, understand the log entry and correct the error at the earliest opportunity. Employ an expert if you are in any doubt.

5) Share this knowledge with key people within your organisation. The more eyeballs that monitor the backup status the less likely it is to go unobserved.

6) Don’t assume that because you paid someone years ago to set up a backup solution that it is performing as well today as it was then. You are the one sitting in front of the Mac every day that tells you whether your backups are happening. It is your data and thus your responsibility to monitor it regularly.

Dejac recommends TimeMachine backups for entry-level backup, Carbon Copy Cloner for full clone backups of your Mac, CrashPlan Cloud backup for off-site backups of servers and lastly PresStore for tape backup solutions. If every Mac has at least one of these backup regimes adopted and monitored you would at least have something to restore should the worse happen.

We will be happy to offer you consultancy advice on any issues raised in this article, please get in touch.
Darrin - November 2015.