A Backup Strategy

A repair shop manager I spoke to the other day told me that many machines they repair are infected. And not with just one virus. One PC had so many that the owner thought he must have a hardware problem because of the erratic performance. At least it still worked. He could so easily have fallen prey to a ransomware attack, in which case his entire system would have been locked down until the ransom was paid.

Strategy

I have a four-step process for backing up.

  1. Make sure all software updates have been applied, especially anti-virus programs.
  2. Empty the Recycle Bin.
  3. Run an anti-virus deep scan (I don’t want to back up malware).
  4. Back up an image of the system disk.

Steps 2 and 3 aren’t needed for daily scheduled backups.

Software

The first requirement is to select a good backup program or service. My preference is True Image 2018 by Acronis. I’ve used it for years and the latest version is stable and fast. I’ve had problems with previous versions, but the latest is holding up well so far. That said, I’ve heard of an issue with recovery times, but other factors could have been at play.

Though I have no experience of it, StorageCraft ShadowProtect is also highly regarded. I believe it is limited to disk image backups only. True Image, on the other hand, provides disk image, file, and folder backups. (A disk in this context is a partition, e.g. C:/.)

There are other programs, some free, but what you most need in a backup program is certainty of execution. It’s one thing to back up your sensitive data, quite another to find it won’t restore when you most need it.

Scheduled Backups

The starting point for a good backup practice is to identify what data and programs you can ill afford to lose. These should be backed up on a regular basis. In my case, I run a number of overnight backups because I work with clients’ data, and daren’t risk losing it. Same applies to work-in-progress and to personal information. In fact, anything that changes regularly and is needed.

Disk Images

As frequently as needed, take a complete disk image of your system drive. I work on the basis that if nothing much has happened in the meantime, I’ll do this every two or three weeks. However, if I’m about to make significant changes to my system, I’ll take a full backup first.

Backup Storage

Once you have backed up your system, you need to ensure the backup is available when needed. Because malware like ransomware can encrypt all attached devices, you should disconnect backup media. I have separate portable hard disks and USBs on which I store cloned disks.

Restore to Different Media

Acronis provides a feature that enables your cloned disk to be restored to another physical drive. It’s called Acronis Universal Restore. Download and run it to install the software on a portable medium (e.g. a USB). This is your key to ensuring you can restore a cloned disk should the original disk image ever be compromised.