On World Backup Day, Plethora Of Solutions To Protect Your Data, But Which One Is For You?

Anand Parthasarathy

Mar 31, 2023, 02:25 PM | Updated 02:30 PM IST

Backup on the cloud is the emerging favourite of lay users. (Graphic compiled from Freepik).
Backup on the cloud is the emerging favourite of lay users. (Graphic compiled from Freepik).
  • Data loss is a ‘silent killer’ that can strike anyone — individual or enterprise. There is a solution — and it’s called backup. Today is World Backup Day.
  • From USB flash sticks to external hard drives, we have multiple options for backing up PC or phone
  • The most popular option emerging, is backing up on the Cloud.
  • Every minute of the day, around the world, 1 in 10 computers suffers data damage by virus or ransomware. Also every minute, 113 mobile phones are stolen somewhere on the earth, a recent study at 'Days of the Year'  revealed. 

    Which is why, once a year, on 31 March, the data storage industry evangelizes ‘World Backup Day’, to highlight the importance of protecting data and keeping systems and computers secure. 

    It began in 2011, after an anguished user posted on the social media site Reddit, after losing everything on the hard drive of his personal computer and having no backup.

    Says Sooraj Balakrishnan, Head of Marketing, Acer India: “World Backup Day is a crucial reminder for all of us to take responsibility for protecting our digital lives. As most of our personal and professional information is stored digitally, it has become increasingly important to back up our data regularly and embrace a safer, more resilient digital future.”

    Adds Ramanujam Komanduri, Country Manager, Pure Storage India: “Data loss is a silent killer that strikes individuals and businesses without warning. The financial and emotional toll of data loss is immeasurable, and it can leave a lasting impact on your life and your business.”

    The message is clear: Avoiding backup is a risk not worth taking, unless you like to live dangerously.

    But like the visually challenged “Six Wise Men of Hindustan” in the 19th century poem by John Godfrey Saxe, who all touched an elephant and came to different conclusions about the nature of the object, the term backup means different things to different users depending whether they are lay users, small or large enterprises.

    The meaning of backup for most of us is: a copy of all your important file — for example, your family photos, home videos, documents and emails.

    Instead of storing it all in one place (like your computer or smartphone), you keep a copy of everything somewhere safe.

    Individual backup

    Individual users of computers and phones have multiple options for backing up their data — and while you may have to pay for the hardware, the backup service, unless your needs are very big — is mostly free.

    How often you backup your files is a matter of personal priorities — once a day, if you are self-employed and doing important work, once a week or once a month for most of us.

    Consumer-class backup devices include external disk drives, USB sticks, even photo memory cards. (Credit: PhotoMix /Pixabay).
    Consumer-class backup devices include external disk drives, USB sticks, even photo memory cards. (Credit: PhotoMix /Pixabay).

    The easiest way to back up work files is to save them on an external USB stick for low volumes up to 128GB which can be had for around Rs 1,000. Photographers prefer to use photo memory cards to keep duplicate picture files.

    For higher capacity, it is better to go in for an external Hard Disk Drive (HDD) of half a terabyte capacity (512 GB) for around Rs 3,000 or a 1 terabyte HDD (1,000 GB) for around Rs 4,300 – Rs 4,500. 

    These days, Solid State Drives (SSD) which unlike the hard disk drives, transfer data 3-4 times faster and have no moving parts in addition to being much smaller in size, are available for the same data capacities but tend to cost around three times more.

    These external devices usually accept the larger Type A USB connector by default, which is OK for PCs and laptops. To connect to phones with their miniature ports, you need to buy a micro USB Type A or Type C-to-USB-A adapter. The pricier SSDs usually supply this converter.

    Backup In The Cloud

    One relatively painless backup option that is the emerging popular choice, is to use one of the cloud storage options available to consumers.

    These are usually offered when you open one of the free email accounts. A Gmail account offers 15 GB of free cloud storage in Google Drive, while  Microsoft’s Outlook email (including Hotmail accounts) comes with 5 GB in OneDrive.  

    Apple offers 5 GB in iCloud. A little known fact is that Yahoo email users can enjoy a limit of 1 terabyte for their mailbox, which is an indirect cloud store.

    Manufacturers of external hard disk or solid-state drives offer capacities up to 5 TB these days. In addition to the hardware, many also throw in a feature where you can link the external drive to any of your cloud storage options.

    Last year Kingston launched its USB Flash drive range called IronKey Locker+ 50 in capacities from 16 GB to 128 GB, with a free service called 'USBtoCloud', where users can automatically back up their data from the flash drive to their own drive Google Drive, OneDrive or other personal  cloud storage.

    In addition the device came with a hard-to-crack AES-type hardware encryption.

    Western Digital's network attached storage devices offer WD MyCloud backup.
    Western Digital's network attached storage devices offer WD MyCloud backup.

    Another storage solutions player WD (Western Digital) which now includes the SanDisk brand, has set up its own MyCloud. 

    When you buy WD external Network Attached Storage (NAS) devices which come in various sizes from 2 TB to 40 TB, you can configure them to automatically back up your data on MyCloud.

    The entry level 2 TB version comes at around Rs 13,800, the 8 TB at Rs 22,000.

    Enterprise Backup Solutions: Towards Data Resiliency

    WD’s NAS solutions are cross over products that smoothly graduate from personal storage solutions in the 2-4 TB size to the 30-40 TB options, for small and medium industries. 

    Enterprises of any size need a better grade of backup than you and me, because their storage may involve the confidential data of its customers.

    Three months ago, LastPass, a popular password manager app had the embarrassment of telling its customers, mostly US-based, that its database had been hacked and tens of thousands of customer passwords were compromised.

    It came to light that this $200 million company was using a homegrown back up system for its sensitive user data. 

    Writes W Curtis Preston, Chief Technology Evangelist at Druva, the US-based, Indian-talent led data protection products company, on the occasion of World Backup Day:

    “The LastPass hack highlights the dangers of relying on a home-grown backup system. To truly ensure that their backups are secure, organizations need to use a professional cyber defence and recovery system. In fact, they need to think not just in terms of data protection, but in terms of data resiliency which is more than just creating a copy of data. It's about proactively safeguarding your systems against new threats and making sure that your organization is always ready to recover quickly after an attack.”

    He adds: “Implementing a data resiliency solution ensures that your data is both protected and recoverable, through backup and protection, replication, and disaster recovery. This is in the face of both ‘traditional’ threats (such as user error, system failure, site disaster) and next-gen threats (such as ransomware, supply chain attacks, insider threats).”

    New Backup Scenarios

    In a world of new customer priorities, new definitions of backup come popping up. 

    Consider this scenario: You are a hardcore fan of the upcoming IPL cricket  tournament. You don’t want to miss a single minute — God forbid, your home broadband connection conks out at a critical nail biting moment.

    Two days ago Jio announced a plan to set your mind at rest: a broadband ‘backup’ plan for 1,2 or 7 days at Rs 21 a day, Rs 198 for a month and going up to Rs 1,490 for 5 months.

    The plan provides a 24x7 always-on fibre backup connection to your existing broadband connection. If you suffer a break in your legacy connection, Jio will kick in and assure uninterrupted IPL feed. A new take on backup for a tension-free Tata IPL?

    A final suggestion from Net security specialist Sophos for the hyper careful user:  

    Remember the 3-2-1 principle: Have 3 copies of your data — the master file plus two types of backup, of which one should be offline and the other offsite — i.e. at a different physical location.

    If you are locked out of home or office, you can still access the offsite copy of your data — and breathe easy!

    Anand Parthasarathy is managing director at Online India Tech Pvt Ltd and a veteran IT journalist who has written about the Indian technology landscape for more than 15 years for The Hindu.

    Get Swarajya in your inbox.