(This article is the second in a three-part series exploring how to evaluate and select a cloud backup and recover service. The previous article explored how to evaluate your data needs and the future article will cover the different backup methods. Read Part 1 here, and Part 3 here.)
In terms of backup requirements, not all of your data is the same.
One way of looking at your data is by importance: What data can’t you live without? What would be unable to reconstruct or rebuild? For example, you can re-rip new copies of your audio CDs or re-scan your old photographs, if you still have them, but you won’t be able to rewrite your project report or your novel manuscript from memory; you won’t be able to re-take pictures of your dog from five years ago.
Another question: what data do you need back as soon as possible, and how soon is “as soon as possible”? This is what backup experts typically refer to as “Recovery Point Objective” (RPO) and “Recovery Time Objective” (RTO).
For example, I’m a freelance writer; the files for my active projects, plus some key calendar, to-do list and other files, typically total to maybe a quarter of a gigabyte. My “archives” — files for projects I’m dealing with — and other less-critical files represent maybe a gigabyte or so.
Not prepared to lose
But I’ve also got 50+ gigabytes of photos, 25+ gigabytes of video, some audio, dozens of scanned images, and gigabytes of assorted sundry stuff.
And when I get to digitizing my older photos and negatives, record albums, and CDs, I’m sure I’ll have a terabyte or so of additional multimedia files.
None of which I am prepared to lose — so it all must be backed up.
For you, essential data you need available may include three large databases, many spreadsheets, several presentations, the past three months’ worth of email, and client billing and payment data for the past six months. If you’re a professional photographer or designer, you may need a ready archive of tens, even hundreds of gigabytes of photos and images.
And you may have lots of personal multimedia — photos, video, scans, etc. — that you don’t want to lose.
RPOs and RTOs
So I’ve really got several sets of RPO/RTOs and yours might look similar to mine:
- For the RPO consisting of “Projects that I am actively working on, plus roughly half a dozen files of to-do, calendaring, etc.” my RTO would be “two to three hours at most.” Ideally, for the half-dozen or so files relating to projects I’m working on immediately, I’d prefer an RTO of “one hour or less.”
- For the RPO that also includes other current projects, along with marketing and pitching, I could probably live with an RTO of 1-2 days.
- For all my other files, I’m sure I could wait a week, even weeks to months — as long as I knew for sure that I’d get them all back.
All this, of course, is just for data. I’d also want a working computer with my core productivity applications on it. (Having recently bought a new, small notebook computer, I’ve got that covered — although there’s more I could be doing in that area… but that’s straying from “data backup.”)
Create and change
The next question: How often do I create or change files — and how much do I care about saving these changes.
For example, my multimedia files are pretty “static” — once I’ve created, organized and named or tagged them, I don’t expect to edit or change them, as a rule.
But the files for whatever I’m working on are created or changed throughout the day. If I lose a file that I have been working on all day (and my most recent backup was at midnight) I’ve lost hours of effort.
So you not only have to know how much data you have, but also how much of it changes frequently, and which and how much data you need near-continuous access to versus what you can wait a few days or even weeks to regain access to.
Now you’re ready to look at cloud backup services, and see which of these match your requirements.