Friday, January 16, 2015

Three Things to Consider Before Backing up Files

There are many things to consider before backing up files to protect them.  Some of these include file versions, security, sharing files, encryption, adding users, and more.  For an explanation of some of these questions read our "6 Things to Consider When Choosing a File Sharing Service vs an Online Backup Service" post.  Online backup services and file syncing / file sharing services operate differently although they are similar.  Exploring their differences helps determine which solution is best in any situation.  The information below focuses on the following three areas of consideration for backing up files:
  1. File Transfers
  2. Bandwidth Usage
  3. Recovering Files
File Transfers
  • Online backup services back up files chosen at pre-selected job intervals.  This assures files are backed up regularly as jobs run automatically once scheduled.
  • File syncing /file sharing services create a dedicated folder to place files for syncing.  As soon as existing files in this folder are updated or new files are added, they are synced automatically as a background process.
  • In general, online backup services are able to back up a greater variety of file types than file syncing / file sharing services.  These include in use system, program, and database files.
  • The file size limit for file syncing / file sharing services is smaller than online backup services and varies by service provider.  In most cases, file syncing / file sharing services are adequate for documents, photos, presentation files and more.
Bandwidth Usage
For clarification purposes, bandwidth usage refers to the impact of data passing from one device to another.  Bandwidth is affected by the capacity of the ISP (Internet Service Provider), the NIC (Network Interface Card) in the device transferring data, as well as other programs and features utilizing Internet access.  Bandwidth can be compared to a highway, the more cars on the highway the slower everyone goes.  The more data being pushed from a device and pulled down to a device over the Internet, the slower bandwidth is for each program.  This makes it an important consideration for backing up files.
  • Online backup services transfer every file selected during the seed, or initial backup.  Each subsequent job transfers only new files and file changes so the bandwidth usage is minimal.  All selected folders and files are checked at scheduled intervals so bandwidth usage is impacted only when jobs run.  Jobs can be scheduled to run at any time including when bandwidth usage is otherwise low.  In the case of backing up large database files with daily changes, the daily bandwidth usage will remain fairly constant even after the seed backup.  If this is the primary type of data being backed up, be sure to choose an online backup service without bandwidth fees.
  • File syncing / file sharing services transfer files as they are updated or placed in the dedicated sync folder so bandwidth usage is spread out more evenly.  However, as files are being transferred while the device is being used, larger files may increase bandwidth usage enough to slow down other applications utilizing Internet access.
In both cases, files are not uploaded when Internet access is not available.  Once Internet access becomes available, online backup jobs will run right away if a scheduled job was missed, and new or updated files inside a file sync / file sharing folder will upload right away.

Recovering Files
  • Online backup services create data sets based on the date and time each backup job finishes.  With each job, files are stored as data sets and listed by backup date.  These data sets provide a snapshot of all files in their current state based on the time the backup job ran.  Dated snapshots allow for the recovery of any version of any file at any time.  For instance, if a device is compromised by cryptolocker or a similar type of malware, files can be recovered by choosing a data set from before the infestation.  In contrast, a file sync / file sharing service might not be able to restore files if all the files were infected and overwritten.
  • Online backup services provide restore jobs which restore any selection of folders and files back to a device and in their original hierarchy and location automatically.  Restore jobs can be scheduled for convenience and bandwidth considerations.
  • File syncing / file sharing services transfer and store files placed in the dedicated sync folder.  As files are changed the newer version of the file is uploaded replacing the older version.  Not all file syncing / file sharing services store previous versions of files as they are overwritten.  If access to previous versions of files is necessary, be sure to choose a service capable of providing this feature.  NOTE:  Some file syncing / file sharing services provide file versions only as a paid feature.
There are many differences between online backup and file syncing / file sharing services. Three important areas to consider before backing up files using either type of service are file transfers, bandwidth usage and recovering files.  While both services provide file security and recovery, the way they accomplish this differs greatly.  Choosing a service carefully will prevent wasted time, frustration, and possibly file loss.

As always, choose wisely!

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