Just like people, all hard drives — and the data contained upon them — do eventually fail and fade. And even if your hard drive “dies” of what’s colloquially called by insurance companies “an act of God” (like a fire or flood or plague of wire-chewing vermin) rather than natural causes, it’s not as much of a tragedy if you’ve got a copy of its data stored in another location, ready to be resurrected to live another day.
Hey, it worked for the Cylons on the Battlestar Galactica reboot!
I subscribe to the 3, 2, 1 backup philosophy: three backups on two different media types and one offsite. Mix it up as much as you can. Having a backup on a hard drive that’s local to your main computer, another backup on a network attached storage (NAS) device that may be in the same building — but far enough away from the reach of immediately local disasters (spilled coffee, burglary, heavy objects falling, pet wrestling, and general human clumsiness), and a completely offsite, cloud-based backup that will preserve your data even if the building where the first two backups are contained is blighted (by fire, flood, or tragic spaceship piloting by drunken aliens) is a pretty ideal setup.
What is a cloud drive?
A cloud drive, by my definition, is simply a storage device that is external to my computer. This means that an NAS device fits the bill, as does Dropbox, Google Drive, or Copy. It’s all “the cloud,” but the farther away from my home my data resides, the further into the cloud that data can be considered. In short: not all cloud drives are offsite (with NAS as a good example), but all offsite drives (such as Dropbox, etc.) are in the cloud. Make sense?
You can hire a service (again, using Dropbox as an example) to back up your data on its own cloud drive somewhere far away, site unseen. Or you could buy your own physical hard drive and have it housed offsite (your office, for instance), but available as a cloud drive by way of the Internet.
Why go for a cloud drive?
A hard drive that can be pressed into service as a practical cloud drive backup should probably offer no less than 1 TB (terabyte) in storage, though they can go up to 5 TB and more. Depending on the type of data you’re storing, you can fairly easily gauge what you’ll need. If it’s mostly text documents, you can probably get away with the lower end of that range. If you’re working with a lot of media — like video, image, and sound files — then you can probably never have enough. Aim as high in TB as you can afford would be my advice.
Having your own physical cloud drive located remotely may give you more peace of mind than simply letting an external service host your data on its servers if you’re worried about prying eyes of unscrupulous employees, disasters striking its data center, or the service simply vanishing overnight (along with all of your data). While none of this is likely to happen with the more reputable, well-known cloud services out there, some of us worry. It’s reasonable to be cautious.
How much is a cloud drive?
A hard drive that’s good for use as a cloud drive can be as inexpensive as $100, or as much as $1,500 (or more). The LaCie 2big Thunderbolt Series 6 TB (7200 RPM) Hard Drive is somewhere in the middle for around $700 at the time of this writing.
You could even opt for a used hard drive to use as a cloud drive backup, but, as with all electronics, you really have no idea how much use it’s seen before settling into your hands. Consider the source (avoid shifty Jawas in the desert), and make sure you’ve got some kind of warranty in case it shuffles off its mortal coil during day two of its service to you.
Combining cloud drives with your internal hard drive will maximize your backup security.
Again, applying the 3, 2, 1 method to backing up your data: local (internal) hard drive + local (external) NAS cloud drive + offsite (external, obviously) cloud drive — whether your own physical hard drive serving as a cloud drive or a cloud service = about as safe as you can expect your data to be. Well, unless you wanted to add a few more offsite backups into the equation (which I wouldn’t discourage, by any means)! 3, 2, 1 is my recommendation for minimal backup security.
Do you have any personal tips for keeping your backups secure? Perhaps there is a specific hard drive that can be used as a cloud drive/NAS drive that you want to recommend from experience? Whatever your comment, please leave it below.