Just over a week ago, I was woken up by a friend calling me to tell me that our office was on fire! This is not a very pleasant way to wake up and I hope it never happens to any of you, however it did happen and everything inside our office was totally destroyed.
After finding out everyone was safe and unharmed, my first thought was to think of our data. We are a computer based knowledge business and our business lives and dies by the data that we create and work with every day. We were very lucky that we had a fairly solid backup strategy and did not lose anything that could not be replaced by insurance in the fire. I am writing this post to hopefully help some of you get into the same situation.
Friction is the arch enemy of backups and people are forgetful. The key thing about most of my backup strategy is that I can be lazy and still have everything important nice and secure. My core business data is backed up almost instantly using four different services that I absolutely love (even more so now!).
Gmail and FreeAgent are slightly vulnerable here as I do not have a local backup of either of these services. FreeAgent has a data export option and I am planning to set up an automated task to download and encrypt our accounts data on a weekly basis. I really don’t have a good way to keep an automated local copy of Gmail so our trust is placed firmly in Google’s hands for now with that one.
We did however lose a few bits of non-essential data. All of my user settings in the ~/Library directory were only stored on our time capsule backup, as was an old backup DMG of my old laptop (although after not touching it for over 12 months, it is unlikely to have had anything important on it). These final pieces of data could have been saved by using one of the many online “full system” backup services like Backblaze or Mozy.
If I could sum up this post in two bullets, this is what I want you to take away:
When thinking about this backup strategy I kept thinking of the old saying “Backup always works, it is the restore that fails.” and I tried to make use of services that use “restore” as an integral part of the day to day use of the service. There was at least one company affected by the fire here that thought they had backups but when they came to restore them, it failed and they lost their data. With something like Dropbox, I can quickly and constantly see if the files are not transferring properly as they will not be available on my home machine or my laptop.
The most distressing part of the fire for me was losing the office that we have been a part of for 4 years now. Not so much the bricks and mortar, although it was a lovely building but the people who worked there who are now either scattered across other offices in Chester or sadly out of work because of it. Material possessions mean very little compared to the community that was lost in that fire. We were very lucky that we did not lose anything really important and my sympathy goes out to all the businesses that were not as lucky as us.
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