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Sunday
Sep042011

What's a backup solution?

I don't know about you, but I've been listening to stories of lost data, drives and machines for what feels like an eternity. For example, Googlers reported in 2007 hard drive failure rates of about 8% per year in their datacenters.

Data security and integrity is very important, indeed many enterprises would not exist today without taking it very seriously.

Personally, I employ the following tools in my day-to-day backup strategy:

  1. Dropbox for lower-security/non-sensitive data I would not mind becoming public. Dropbox is excellent for cloud storage of personal data, easy to use (allowing me to be more productive), and free up to 2GB, which is more than I need. Regarding security...I have no idea how you break an authentication system for 4 hours such that it lets anyone in...
  2. Wuala for more personal/sensitive data I need access to on the go. Because Pre-Internet Encryption (PIE) is important if you want data to remain private. Dropbox has access to my unencrypted data on their servers, or if not that, then they have access to the key to decrypt my data (which is why their web-interface file download works without needing a Java app). My understanding is the FBI, AFP or other law enforcement organisations could in theory ask or perhaps even compel Dropbox under court order to release these files. Wuala never gets my key, all they get is an AES128-encrypted blob of data which would take something on the order of the power of the sun to brute force (math to come in a later post now I've been reminded). So the AFP would simply need to ask me directly - which they should do in the first place :)
  3. Carbonite for off-site backup of my main home system (subject to upload speed limits, which in Australia is still unfortunately quite limiting...I dream of NBN speeds). Still I've managed about 100GB stored securely which is most of the documents, photos, music and video that is important to me. And the 3 year deal is a huge discount!
  4. Windows Home Server for a complete onsite backup.
  5. Truecrypt and USB keys/CDs/DVDs for the super-secret stuff I have legal obligations or just want to keep secure and safe. I mean it could be a planted story if you're uber-paranoid, but I'm pretty happy because implementing your own industrial-strength crypto-system is something for the true math geeks out there (I've only toyed with simpler things like a Feistel Cipher for uni courses thus far)....and it would be quite the notch on your CV if you discovered a bug in Truecrypt's implementation !

Well #5 isn't truly day-to-day, but I use it regularly enough it's part of my strategy. I keep thinking I should be a little more paranoid ... but even if the worst happened and I did lose everything, I'd just have to start again and the brain that created it all would probably still be here in good working order :)

Sometimes we choose to be a little less paranoid and far more productive and efficient.

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