My Data Backup Routine

January 12, 2010 – 8:13 PM

I wanted to offer my personal backup routine to all those that do not have something in place and not sure where or how to start.  I tried many different methods over the years and so far I think this is the best one for me, my amount of data, and my local network configuration.

First off, make note that I have EFS enabled on my Windows machines to help protect the data while on the local disk.  You can backup your data “securely” all you want but if somebody breaks into your home and steals your machines they will have full access to it all (password protected logins or not – trust me).  So enabling EFS will at least protect the data from any attempts at bypassing your Windows login or simply slaving the drive to another machine.

I start out with an external USB drive which consists of nothing but a Truecrypt volume taking up the entire space.  This works the same way as EFS – if somebody does steal this drive they will have no way of getting into your actual data.  Once Truecrypt mounts this drive volume I use SyncToy to copy the selected files and/or folders over to the USB drive and keep this drive in sync.  This is all done over USB so at this point the data has not hit the network yet.  Now I want to make sure I have an off-site copy as well, so for this I use Jungle Disk to sync the USB drive up to my Amazon S3 account.  Aside from the data being stored encrypted on the Amazon S3 drive, Jungle Disk itself encrypts the data locally before sending it out the SSL/TLS connection to Amazon S3.  SyncToy and Jungle Disk are both on offset schedules and this process is completely automatic.

This gives me all the backups I need.  I have one local copy on the LAN for fast recoveries if anything should happen, but I also have one off-site copy stored completely encrypted if something happens to all of my local hardware and I would need to pull down a copy and restore it (last resort – think LAN vs. WAN speeds).

The costs are pretty low compared to some other pre-packaged solutions out there:

  • External Drive – Price would vary depending on the size of drive you need
  • Jungle Disk – A one-time purchase of $20 for a lifetime license
  • SyncToy – Free
  • Truecrypt – Free
  • Amazon S3 account – I’m currently paying around $3 – $5 per month (this varies with the amount of data you transfer back and forth)

All in all, it’s not a bad solution for only a few dollars per month.  The data is encrypted at every stage where the risk of exposure is high.

  1. 2 Responses to “My Data Backup Routine”

  2. Hi, thanks for the article. I found it interesting but two questions popped into my head as I was reading it. Firstly, why use an external drive rather than a partition on the hard drive? Secondly, why use an encrypted volume as opposed to encrypting each file individually? Does Truecrypt not support on-the-fly individual file encryption/decryption?

    By Andy on Mar 26, 2012

  3. Hello, Andy.

    For your first question, it is always better to store a copy of the backup on a separate piece of media. What happens if somebody would break in and steal the entire computer? What happens if your hard drive stops spinning one day? Your local and easily recoverable backup is gone as well.

    And secondly, this might be a matter of preference but I like Truecrypt’s plausible deniability model. With individual file encryption, the files themselves are still visible, file names, access times, modification times, creation times, etc are all visible and can be read. A truecrypt volume will hide all of this extra information.

    Either or on the second question, but I hope you see the point about the external hard drive. That’s critical for a good backup routine.

    By manunkind on Mar 26, 2012

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