Blog from Mar 27, 2015

World Backup Day: Is your data backed up?


The IT Division is taking part in celebrating World Backup Day by encouraging the Lab community to double check that your backups are working and ensure that all your important data is backed up.  

Don't Be An April Fool - Do A Backup Checkup

It's time for your checkup.  We promise it won't hurt.

First: Check up on your strategy.  What are you trying to achieve with your backup?  Are you trying to backup all the data in your experiments, or just some, or just your important findings?  Do your backups need to be able to survive a major earthquake that impacted the site?  Are you using the best form of technology to ensure that your data remains safe?  For example, if you're still using external hard drives as backup, make sure you've evaluated some of the newer alternatives that may provide more resilient backups.  Remember that file sync (like Dropbox and Google Drive Sync) are not the same thing as Backups (see more on this below).  

Second: Check up on your scope. Are you actually backing up the data you want to backup?   Have your experimental results moved somewhere else and you're no longer backing them up?  Make sure your backup software or process is correctly backing up the files and directories and systems you need.

Third: Check up on your data.  Now it's time to go do a quick spot check on your backups.  Does your backup client report that it's working?  Can you see recent files in your backups or in the logs provided by the backup client?  Does the size of your backup correspond to the amount of data you think you've backed up?  

What if I don't know the answers?

If you can't complete the backup checkup because you're using systems managed by others, now is the time to ask some questions!  Find your sysadmin or another cognizant person and confirm what and how is being backed up on your behalf.  Ask them to run through the backup checkup too.


Can IT Help Me Backup My Data?

You bet.  

IT offers various options to help from simple desktop/laptop backup solutions (Carbonite) to infrastructure like Google Drive that is already backed up, to more complex backups for servers and shared storage.  
Checkout our options at

What Else Should I Know?

A Quick Word About External Hard Drives
Historically, nothing has competed with external hard drives for ease and cost of doing major backups for research data.   However, that's starting to change.  Cloud services like Google Drive and Carbonite provide reasonably speedy and large volume alternatives at competitive prices (or even free).  While External Hard Drives are pretty good, they do have surprising failure rates and, unless they are reliably stored offsite, they are unlikely to allow your research data to survive a major event at the Lab (or even a minor one like a particularly nasty virus or a fire sprinkler release).  If you use external hard drives, take a minute to consider other options.  Need help, contact
A Quick Word About Google Drive Sync and Dropbox and Other File Synchronization Services
File synchronization services like the Google Drive Sync Client and Dropbox provide some of the features of backups but are not, fundamentally, backup tools.  This is because sync clients are highly susceptible to accidental local changes that propagate through the backup  This is even more true in collaborative file sharing environments where it's possible that a collaborator could accidentally delete your important folder or file and, potentially, delete your local copy as well!     While file synchronization does provide some resiliency, it doesn't equate to a full backup solution.
However, you can safely make use of the Lab's Google Drive storage space as a backup location (all employees have 30GB or shared mail and drive space) by doing the following:
  1. Create a folder for your backup in the web interface of Google Drive (not the file browser on your computer).  Make sure it's named something obvious and don't share it with anyone.
  2. Ensure that all your local Google Drive Sync clients are set to choose the directories you want to sync and make sure that new backup file is excluded.
  3. Now use the web interface or file uploader interface at to upload files.

Provided you don't accidentally delete the files or accidentally begin syncing these files locally, this should provide a safe backup destination for your work.  Need help, contact