Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Tech Tuesday - How Amazon's Cloud Crash Should Change Your Backup Routine

Why Redundant Backups Are Necessary

This week Amazon experienced significant problems at their Northern Virginia data center.  The outages brought down part of Amazon's cloud services.  Since Amazon is one of the largest providers of cloud services, this was a major event.  Many companies were unable to access their data or their websites were unavailable on Thursday and Friday. 

I joined the cloud revolution this year to back up my genealogy data.  I personally use Sugarsync's 5 GB free account.  One of the other popular providers is Dropbox.  These services are great!  You can back up your data off site to protect against a myriad of things including hardware crashes, earthquakes, and 2 year-olds.  These cloud sites also allow you to access your data from other devices when you are not at home.  For example, you can access your files while at the library if you forgot to bring something with you.  Or the reverse, upload photos and document scans to your data backup while still at the library. 

Amazon's problems this week should also effect the way that we (the home user, blogger, etc.) backup our data.  My suggestion is to back up your data in multiple ways.  This will ensure that if any one of the back up methods fails, you will still be able to access your data.  I personally backup my data at multiple levels. 

First, as mentioned, I have my genealogy data automatically backup to a cloud service.  This keeps my data off site (out of the house) in case of a massive natural disaster.  In California, we are always worried about earthquakes.

Second, at my house, we have an external hard drive attached to our computer.  We periodically delete all of the files off of the external hard drive and copy over all files from our computer (every couple of months).  This backup is to cover us in case the hard drive on our home computer fails.  Hardware failures are the largest cause of lost data.

Third, once a year, we copy all files to DVDs.  The DVDs are supposed to be kept in a safe spot at my in-laws house.  I have to fess up that the case holding these are in my house right now.  Note to self - drop them off as soon as possible!  Again this keeps all of our data off site in case something happens at our house.  We find this a cheaper way to back up our photos and music than subscribing to a larger cloud account.  Our backup plan is not perfect but it works for our household and is something that we can maintain.

Redundancy is the key and this was proven this week at Amazon.  Many large companies (such as Netflix) pay for upgraded Amazon services to have their data backed up to multiple data centers.  These large companies pay for redundancy.  In return they did not experience any outages since their data is backed up in multiple locations.

1 comment:

  1. I need to look into the sugarsync site you mentioned. We back up data at work off site and I've been meaning to apply it to my genealogy data - just didn't want to pay too much .. :-)
    Theresa (Tangled Trees)