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Backup and Disaster Recovery

Hardware fails. Malware and ransomware are realities of the internet. People accidentally delete things. These things happen ... and you need to be prepared for when they happen to you.

As I write this in the year 2015, I realize that backup and recovery are easier than ever, but they do require some preparation. So let's get started.

Deciding what to back up

Complexity kills. Make your backups simple, reliable, repeatable and automatic by backing up the smallest amount of data possible. The things that matter most to you. If your house or you computer burn down tomorrow, will you really cry over those 200 gigabytes of music and movies? Probably not!

It'll be the files you and your family/friends created that are irreplaceable. Your pictures, your term papers, your text diaries, vital records, things like that. So the first step is to organize those things into one place. Here is the directory structure I use:

+---MotaFiles
    +---Literature, Articles (resource)
    |   +---Hobbies and Crafts
    |   +---Home Projects
    |   +---Recipes-Cooking
    +---People
    |   +---PersonName1
    |   +---PersonName2
    |   +---FamilyName1
    +---Permanent Records
    |   +---Auto Records
    |   |   +---FordExplorer-2012
    |   |   +---ChevyAstro-1999
    |   +---BitLocker Keys
    |   +---Education Records
    |   +---Health Insurance
    |   +---Health Records
    |   +---Pet Records
    |   +---Software Keys, Licenses, Links
    |   +---SSHkeys
    |   +---Warrantees and Manuals
    +---Pictures
    |   +---Vacation2014
    |   +---Wedding
    |   +---GrandpaBob
    +---Projects
    |   +---Cancelled
    |   +---Completed
    |   +---Current
    |       +---Project1
    +---Tools
    +---Videos (personal)
    +---Work
    |   +---FormerEmployer1
    |   +---FormerEmployer2
    |   +---CurrentEmployer
    +---Yearly
        +---1980-2013
        +---2014
        +---2015

This is a bit truncated and generalized, but you get the idea. 

My goal was to get all of my important stuff into one, well organized folder structure, so that I could easily back it up, move it to new computers, etc. Note that this structure does not contain places for music, movies, or software downloads. I consider those to be easily replaceable, and not worth the hassle and expense of backing up. I do keep such things, but not in this folder (and I keep them to a minimum).

So the first thing I did was create this directory structure, and promise myself that anytime I created or saved a file, it would go in here. Then, for the next week or so, I spent 20-30 minutes a day going through all my stuff, filing things appropriately. 

Once done, I found that my 'MotaFiles' folder - my most important stuff really - was under 30 gigabytes. And I've been hoarding files more than 30 years! 

The actual backup

Once I had my stuff prioritized (everything I cared about, and everything I didn't), my backup choice became easy. I simply moved my 'MotaFiles' folder into the OneDrive folder, and that was it! 

You may choose one of the many other online filesync services. They all have their pros and cons. Or you may choose to use a spare drive or USB drive and the builtin File History. Or you may choose an online backup service, like CrashPlan.

Recovery

I have not had a malware infection on any of my own PCs in well over a decade. I do run AV software, but I haven't even seen a warning popup from it in all this time, because I strictly follow good defensive computing practices. That said, I basically behave as if a malware infection or hardware failure could happen 60 seconds from now. I am always prepared to rebuild my PC from scratch.

Many technical people believe that malware can be safely removed from a PC. I ... do not. 

(more to come)




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