Prior to working for Memset, I spent six years working for a multi-award winning visual effects and post-production facility in Soho as a production systems administrator (a fancy term for an engineer). Before that, I was working in the web hosting industry. Between the two industries, I’ve encountered much frustration from clients, artists and producers who have failed to take responsibility for adequately protecting their own data.
One particularly nasty case came when I had been tasked with setting up visual effects equipment at Pinewood Studios. Due to a variety of limitations, we had to supply the workstation with non-RAIDed disks. As a consequence of this, we instead shipped an external DVD writer and a set of blank DVDs and told the artists who were working on the machine to ensure they took regular backups of their data. The Internet connection back then (even at Pinewood!) had somewhat limited bandwidth and was already saturated with dailies and assets being transferred to and from the office.
When the kit came back to the office, the data drive suffered a complete failure. While many of the assets had been transferred as part of the daily process, there was still a lot of data that wasn’t. To make matters worse, the external DVD stuff was completely ignored by the artists and nothing had been backed up. At all. The quote I got back from the specialist hard drive recovery service was £9,800.
Taking a little bit of time out of your day to backup your data is certainly not wasted time. Things have improved considerably over the years with regards to online backup, which didn’t exist in any form for businesses or consumers at the time of the above disaster. Instead of faffing around with multiple DVDs and specialised spanning software, you can now use an online backup service such as SquirrelSave from Memset. It uses industry-standard protocols such as rsync over SSH to transfer data from the workstation to Memset’s SquirrelSave servers. The data is encrypted at both ends and is stored on a secure 256-bit AES filesystem. In terms of bandwidth, SquirrelSave’s bandwidth usage can be restricted and, because it’s rsync and SSH, we can also schedule the backups to kick off every X hours. Although SquirrelSave is currently available for Windows XP, Vista (and limited support for Windows 7), it can be made to work with other operating systems such as Linux and OS X due to the readily available rsync and SSH utilities.
Even with hindsight and the best will in the world, mistakes can still happen. Even if you have an online backup service such as SquirrelSave, I still absolutely recommend another source of backup, such as Blu-Ray, DVD or external hard drive. External hard drives have come down in price considerably over the years and even portable USB powered drives are cheap enough to carry around with you.
In part two of this article I’ll demonstrate that, even if you think you’re protected, it is important to double check before doing anything that involves re-imaging or destroying data. Also, if you’re running a business critical website, how you can protect yourself with Memset’s server backup options.