Backup and Archive Solutions for Creative Pros

Ben Greiner -

Backup and Archive solutions are often confused as being the same. Although it's possible to start with a combined system and use it for Backup and Archive, the greatest benefits are achieved when the backup is optimized for short-term storage and the archive is optimized for long-term storage (two separate systems).

Most offices have traditionally archived to CD/DVD media. Please read True Cost of Archiving to CD/DVD for more information on the benefits of archiving to disk rather than CD/DVD. Before buying any new product we strongly recommend our Pro Support clients contact us for a free purchasing consultation to determine the best solution for your office. 

Keep in mind, no matter what system you invest in, it will one day become too small to accommodate ALL your data. When this happens you can purchase another system, or replace the "small" drives with larger drives.

Backup (short-term storage)

We all need backups so we can restore data when it's lost. Loss can occur at any time from accidental deletion, fire, theft, hardware failure or unexpected file corruption. Possessing a few weeks of backup history is desirable. Three copies of the backup is the recommended goal -- two copies onsite and one offsite. The two copies onsite are required so one data set can be recycled (erased) without fear of losing any backup history. The offsite backup is for disaster recovery -- if all backup copies are onsite during a disaster, then all data may be lost.

WARNING: TIME MACHINE IS UNRELIABLE. We love Apple's easy-to-use products, but we need to be clear here ... Do NOT rely on Time Machine for backups. Time Machine can fail despite showing no signs of failure. We use CrashPlan PROe to backup our data. There is also a consumer version simply called, CrashPlan.

Archive (long-term storage)

The goal with archival data is to store the archive on at least two (ideally three) pieces of media and in two separate and secure locations. All digital media will fail, so we can't trust just one copy. One archive set stays onsite and is always available. The other set lives offsite in a secure location (in case the onsite archive is lost or damaged).

et's call this the OFFLINE ARCHIVE SOLUTION. The recommended products are below...
Drive Dock ($40, slow but cheap)
Hard Drives (pick a size. Get two. 500GB @ $50 each)
Storage Case ($13, to store the hard drives)
Optional: Extensis Portfolio ($200, to search offline storage)


Offsite Backup (disaster recovery)

There are several hosted (offsite) backup solutions available, however many of them can be a challenge for small companies with large amounts of data.

  • The first offsite backup can take a long time. Look for solutions that allow you to "seed" the data locally then ship it offsite.
  • Restores (even minor ones) can take a long time. It's always best to restore locally, but when disaster strikes you'll be happy to restore from anywhere. Still, it's best to work with a company that will send your data on a hard drive when you need it restored fast.
  • Some "unlimited" backup solutions actually have limits so read the fine print.
  • Many offsite business backup solutions charge by the amount of backup data. For small creative pro shops with terabytes of data this can get expensive fast.
SOLUTION: We have found that the best way around all of these obstacles is to host your own offsite backup. We use CrashPlan PROe to backup to a local destination. At the same time we send a copy through the Internet to an offsite location.

There are several ways to do this. You can backup from work to home, from main office to branch office, or from home office to home office. In all cases the backup works both ways. The main office backs up to the branch office and the branch office backs up to the main office. As long as a disaster doesn't take out both locations at the same time (and if that happens, will you be around to care?) you'll always have a disaster recovery destination from which to restore your valuable data.

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    Ben Greiner
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    Ben Greiner

    Good article from Attempo:

    ** Archive or Backup? What’s the difference and why you need both**


    What's the difference between backup and archive solutions?

    While “backup” and “archive” are often used interchangeably, they are two different functions. We offer products for both, and we often have customers requesting backup software when an archive solution would work better for them. The key differences? Backup is designed for disaster recovery, while archive is designed for long-term preservation and reducing storage capacity.

    If you’re only backing up and not archiving, then you are probably over-spending on storage hardware. Plus, you could shorten your backup windows by rolling out an archive solution. And if you’re currently using a “backup-then-delete” process as a de facto archive, you are not getting the automation, transparent access, and metadata search that a true archive solution brings.


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