March 31 – the World Day of those who don’t do backups

By Jaime Dias, manager of the Systems Administration Service

Our digital footprint is increasing – less paper, much more bytes. The pandemic is estimated to have accelerated the amount of data created, collected, copied, and used worldwide, reaching 100 zetabytes in 2022. In 2010, there were close to two zetabytes. You don’t need to Google it: a zeta is a 1 followed by 21 zeros. 

We talk about many types of data, and their different importance: from data that disappears, and we never actually miss, to data whose absence could lead companies to bankruptcy; or all those precious memories, photos and videos, whose value is incalculable. 

But it wasn’t just the data that increased. The risk of losing tens or hundreds of gigabytes of data stored on laptops or mobile phones has also increased. Either because we accidentally deleted them, or the hard drive malfunctioned; or maybe because we forgot the password that encrypted the data, our equipment was stolen, or we were affected by a cyber-attack. Statistics show that approximately three-quarters of users have already experienced at least one incident leading to the loss of important data. 

There are several solutions that allow us to reduce the likelihood of such risks, but ultimately, the one that allows us to sleep better at night is to make regular backups, preferably every day. 

Are you one of those lucky people who doesn’t care about backups, and hasn’t had any misfortune yet? March 31, the World Backup Day, is celebrated because of you, and to remind you that your luck will run out sooner or later. 

“Things will go wrong in any given situation, if you give them a chance.” – Murphy’s law 

Don’t take that risk: make sure that all your important data is protected.  

Confirm that the backups are on secure locations, either on an external drive or on the cloud. There are many attacks that focus on backup systems because they may be more vulnerable.  

Always encrypt backup data, but don’t forget your password. Keep it on your password manager. Without it, your backups are worth as much as my 2.5 bitcoins: adequately protected 10 years ago with a password I just can’t remember. 

Make sure that all data from your backups is actually available. A lot of people get unpleasant surprises when they need to resort to backups. 

Try this exercise: if you lose your computer or phone today, do you know how to recover the most important data? If any information or password is required to access encrypted backups, do you know what it is, or if it is stored on a secure location, other than the laptop or phone you just lost? 

INESC TEC makes daily backups of the main services, such as email, Intranet, Iris, repository, Drive, and Gitlab, and provides a backup service for virtual machines and datasets. Many of these backups are copied to tapes (yes, Google, Amazon, and Microsoft also use them) weekly and transferred to a remote location in case there’s a disaster.

INESC TEC Drive allows you to guarantee at least one copy of your working documents. Your Outlook emails, calendars and contacts are saved as well, you’ll still be able to access all this data even if you lose your computer. 

We would like to provide daily backups of all INESC TEC employees, but, at least for now, it is not possible, because there are several hundred computers and terabytes. But we are available to give you some tips and provide support. 

Here’s a link with information about the World Backup Day; I urge you to make the following pledge: “I solemnly swear to back up my important documents and precious memories on March 31st”. 

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