IT Center Blog

Data backup made easy

December 27th, 2021 | by
External hard drive

A popular backup method is to save data on an external hard drive. (Source: Unsplash)

With the year 2021 nearing its end, a whole new year full of possibilities is about to begin. Once again, the time has come for some good resolutions. This year has clearly shown us how essential a good IT infrastructure is. Day after day, huge amounts of data are created, processed and shared, both privately and professionally. But what if this data unexpectedly disappears? While many people may be aware of the danger of data loss, only a few actively take precautions to protect their data from such a loss in a private context. Frequent backups aim to prevent data loss and are an essential aspect of IT security.

What is a backup?

Backup means the process of saving data on one or more storage media. The data is copied to one or more internal or external storage media. The purpose of a backup is to prevent data loss, for example due to hardware defects, software errors or hacker attacks. Thanks to backups, the date stored on the storage device is still available in case the hard disk of your computer fails you or your smartphone gets lost or broken.

These backups can be stored locally, for example on an external hard drive, or online. Personal backups are considered particularly secure when applying the so-called 3-2-1 rule. This rule implies that at least 3 backup copies of the data should be created, on at least 2 different data carriers, with at least 1 of these copies being stored in a different location.

Backup methods

There are three different backup methods: Full backup, incremental backup and differential backup:

A full backup is a complete backup of all data. There is no dependency on previous backups as all data is backed up individually.

Incremental backup, on the other hand, only backs up the data that has been added or changed since the last backup. The biggest advantage of this method is the time saving, as the backup copy is always based on the last backup and not on the full backup. This means that significantly less data must be backed up. However, when restoring data, the full backup must be restored first, then each individual incremental backup in chronological order. This means that all incremental backups are dependent on their previous backups. Should there be a problem with one backup, the entire restore may be affected.

In the case of differential backups, the data is always backed up based on the last full backup. This means that only the data that has been added or changed since the last full backup will get saved. When restoring data, the full backup must be restored first, followed by only the last differential backup.

How to make backups wisely?

Some of our devices automatically create backups using pre-installed software. In most of these cases, the data is stored online. In addition, various other programmes offer both free and paid automated or semi-automated backup solutions for private use. In the best case, the entire system is backed up at regular intervals without you having to explicitly think about it. However, you should always make sure that the software is trustworthy.

For those who prefer the option of not using professional support at all, manual backup is also an alternative. All you need is an external data carrier and some patience. When backing up data manually, you can determine which data you want to copy on your own. What is most important is that backups should be done regularly. The key word here is mainly discipline. Of course, the frequency of backups will also depend on your use of the device. With manual backups, you must decide for yourself at which intervals and how often you want to perform them.

There are countless ways to create backups and to save your data in a useful way. The most important thing is really to just do it, preferably more frequently than too seldom. Regular backups should be high on our list of good resolutions for the new year. By doing so, we will hopefully be able to leave the hassles of data loss behind us.

You are particularly interested in this topic and would also like to find out how data backup works across universities in NRW? On the website of the preliminary project Datensicherung.NRW (only german), you can find out more about the operating model that is intended to ensure sustainable and modern data backup at universities of NRW in the future.


Responsible for the content of this article is Stéphanie Bauens.

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