Types of Backups

Wikipedia (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Backup) reviews technical aspects of backing up data that will not fit in this blog post, including a schedule for non-incremental backups.

Image or Full Copy: This creates an exact duplicate of your hard drive onto another hard drive, including all of your programs in the same working condition as on your computer. If you take your hard drive out and replace it with this, your computer will instantly be ready to go as if it were your own computer, with all your data, programs, and settings ready to use as of the data of your last image copy. An image disk will only work in your computer or its exact duplicate.

Full Backup: This copies all of your data. If you have all of your data in a single folder, you can manually copy it as you would any folder and use it elsewhere in the same manner. If you rely upon backup software, it will look for data and copy it elsewhere. The data may require your backup software to restore it or uncompress it.

Incremental Backup: This starts Day One with a Full Backup. Each day following, it backs up all new or changed files. When you restore, you select specific files or the entire data, and you select the date of the data you want restored. The software keeps track of the files and rebuilds either specific files or the entire disk as of the date you want. If a virus corrupts your data, you can restore everything as of the date before the virus, and restore individual files until they the day before they became corrupted.

Any of the other methods that capture your entire data or backs up immediately runs the risk of copying the corrupted data. This forces you to use a historical backup from before the infection, if you have historic backups in addition to the disk copy or data capture. Compared to all other methods, incremental backups can rebuild best after data corruption, save on the amount of storage media, and wear and tear on the storage machine, if any. Incremental backups can go on forever. I prefer to start a new one at least each year for each backup set and stagger the start of each set.

Onsite Backup: Keep this backup set in your office so it is available if files are lost while you are at work. This is as vulnerable to fire, theft, flood, etc., as your office computer, so it is insufficient on its own.

Offsite Backup: This backup set is kept in a safe place outside your office, as in your home, partner’s home, online, a safe deposit box, a colleague’s office in another building for whom you reciprocate, etc.

Weekly Offsite Backup: If you are not using an incremental backup, thoroughly study the offsite backup rotations and understand them well (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Backup). You will do a full backup each week and modified files daily. There are often four sets of weekly media. If you have a virus or want to restore an overwritten file, you can go back as far as one month, possibly several. The incremental goes back forever.

Instantaneous Backup: Certain systems backup data as it is created on your hard disk.

This can write to any backup device or storage media. An instantaneous backup will become instantly corrupted as soon as your primary drive becomes corrupted. RAID: Multiple hard drives are stacked in a RAID device. They keep all of your data in multiple places on the disks. If any disks fail, your data is still available on the remaining disks.

Portable Device Backup: Regularly backup any portable device that carries data. If you keep any data on a phone, tablet, pad, netbook, flash drive, etc., put that into your backup schedule. Regularly backup your address book and other data, like work photos, from your phone. Even if you don’t have work data on your phone, back it up regularly, too, or else the time you need to restore that data will eat into your work.

The type of practice you have, your risk assessment, and your tolerance for that risk will determine how you backup. Do not rely upon your malpractice carrier coverage as any assurance. They will hold you to a minimal standard to prevent liability to your clients. They don’t insure against your downtime and lost opportunity.


Remy Luria first logged on to the DOD Internet and other remote computers from Cornell University in 1977, where he obtained his JD from the law school and was an editor on the Cornell International Law Journal. He studied international trade and tax law at the Europa Institute in The Netherlands before practicing law in New York City, New Jersey, and then Honolulu. He used three kinds of pre-DOS OS and computers without hard drives before getting an 8088 DOS PC. Mr. Luria has held many bar positions with the ABA, ABA-YLD, NYSBA, NJSBA, HSBA, CLLA, and ACA, was elected five times to the Nuuanu/Punchbowl Neighborhood Board, and has testified before the Hawaii State Legislature. He wrote the first Information Technology Chapter for the HSBA’s guide for lawyers opening their own office over 10 years ago and recently updated it. His areas of practice include international law, commercial law, bankruptcy, real estate, mortgages, and administrative law for foreign companies. He can be contacted at infotech@lurialaw.com.

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