Always Be Prepared for Data Loss

datalossWhen your hard drive decides to commit suicide, make sure you have backups to survive the ensuing chaos.

Yesterday, another attorney’s hard drive fried itself. He had a backup through Mac OS X Time Machine, and also used some form of cloud storage, but neither backup could give him the last full image backup. Understandably, he went back and forth before ultimately restoring the last captured full hard drive image from Time Machine.

If you are worried about the same scenario, consider cloud storage. A program like Dropbox stores everything on the cloud and on your hard drive. Dropbox updates continuously as long as you have an active internet connection. If your computer crashes, you can restore everything. If the cloud in the sky evaporates, you still have everything on your actual hard drive. Either way, if one source crashes, you still have instant access to everything.

If you do not have a large documents file, consider buying an external hard drive or even a thumb drive. Keep it plugged in all the time, and set it up to backup every ten minutes, or every hour.

You might even consider doing both. When your practice is tied to your computer, you can never be too careful.


  1. Avatar Dan Weinand says:

    Minnesota-based CrashPlan has an awesome system for backing up locally, to remote servers you own, or to their own online service.

    Time Machine, unfortunately, while easy to use seems less-than-reliable for backing up critical data. Particularly, if done over WiFi, there is real potential for your backup to be corrupted.

    Whatever solution you use, it’s important to regularly test restoring from backups. There’s nothing worse than going to restore you data after a HD crash, only to find out the file is corrupted and nothing was saved. Additionally, keeping a backup stored offsite, will protect you in the event of a fire, flood, or theft.

  2. Avatar Mitch Jackson says:

    Data loss can also happen via theft . Several years ago our firm we burglarized and all the drives and processors were taken. Fortunately, we were backing up off-site via the net and on-site (stolen) with a direct network device. We also did, and still do, encrypt data. Now we continue to do multiple backups (also for natural disasters) and have placed the server in a room that can be locked. All ideas we highly recommend!

    Mitch Jackson, Esq.
    Jackson & Wilson, Inc.
    2009 OC Trial Lawyer of the Year

  3. Avatar Dan Nguyen says:

    I do both; I use a syncing service to sync my files between my Mac & PC desktop, and use Time Machine to back up my Mac. I also have a NAS that I backup my PC desktop to.

    I will also reiterate the ability to testing & restoring data; you need to know how good the ability to restore data is on a particular service.

  4. Avatar John Allison says:

    Mitch’s advice is very sound. Physical security is as important as distributed backups.

    I am the systems administrator at an estate planning firm. We protect our data in three ways.

    RAID: The server is running with 3 hard drives. The first runs the operating system. The second and third drives are mirrored RAID drives. If a drive fails the firm can continue to function for the rest of the day with little to no actual downtime. Repairs can be made after hours when lawyers and staff are minimally affected.

    Local backup: We use crash plan, mentioned earlier, because it is free to use if your backup machine is local. The stored data is encrypted.

    Cloud backup: For this we use Carbonite. For $60/year, on Mac or Windows (Sorry Ubuntu users), our data is encrypted and sent as encrypted packets over the internet to be stored off site.

    I’ve had to restore data from corrupted hard drives using both CrashPlan and Carbonite. Each is different, but both very intuitive and easy to use. I’d recommend both. The restores were everything from a full restore to just a couple of files.

  5. Interesting post and comments.

    I agree that all of these suggestions are valid and will work, I thought I could add to the conversation by proposing an alternative solution.

    SaaS document management relieves the issue of back-up and hard drive crashes as all ones documents are stored and backed-up in the cloud and accessible from anywhere without the need for multiple file-syncing and back up solutions. It does this while also providing standard DMS features.

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