Welcome back! It has been a number of weeks since our last post, as life got a little busy around here and blogging, unfortunately, took a back seat. I hope that your last couple of weeks saw some time around the game table with friends enjoying this amazing community that we are a part of.
Just about 18 months ago I had a hard drive die on me. Normally that wouldn’t be that big of a deal to me, but this time around the hard drive had the majority of the digital files for The Hackers Guild. Even though I should have known better, I didn’t have a proper back up in place. Luckily I did have some of the files saved to my Google drive, as well as a few locally on my laptop. Another saving grace was the fact that I had set up The Hackers Guild on both Tabletop Simulator and Tabletopia.
While I was able to survive the loss of that hard drive this time without much data loss, I knew that the next time I might not be so lucky. The next few weeks after this happened were spent researching different options until I finally decided on my current solution: all work is done and saved locally on my laptop and synced to my Synology NAS with redundant hard drives. The data is then synced from the NAS storage to my Google drive account. While this system isn’t perfect, it definitely has given me some peace of mind. For this week’s blog post I want to share with you my 5 steps to digital peace of mind.
Use the correct hardware
Part of the problem with the original drive was that I was using a regular external hard drive as a NAS that was online and accessible 24×7 which isn’t what the drive was designed for. I remedied this by using NAS specific hard drives in my Synology NAS.
Save your data in multiple locations, including at least one off-site location
This is probably one of the most important rules of backups and is the reason I didn’t lose more than I did. The thing to remember here is that the locations need to be separate from each other like computer hard drive, a flash drive (or other external hard drives), or a file share on a different computer on your network.
You will also want to keep at least one copy at a completely different physical location. The simplest example of this would be storing files in Google Drive, Dropbox, or with another online backup/file storage provider. However, it could also be uploading your files to a web or FTP server; taking flash drives to a friend’s home, to a bank safety deposit box, or to your place of employment if you have one.
In my solution, I have copies of my files on my local hard drive, stored on my NAS, as well as stored on my Google Drive. This should hopefully protect me from a hard drive crash on my laptop, on my NAS, or complete loss of both due to fire or theft.
Automate the process
Putting things in place for backup purposes is only helpful if you actually perform the backups, and in today’s fast-paced lifestyle it is really easy to forget to make regular backups of your data. Luckily, most, if not all, of the process can be automated using built-in features of operating systems, like Scheduled Tasks and the native backup utility in Windows 7 and newer and Time Machine for Macs, as well as clients that sync your local files to the online storage providers.
In my solution, there is software available on the Synology operating system that allows me to sync files between my laptop and the NAS, as well as a client for the NAS to sync files with my Google Drive. The local to NAS changes are synced in real time, where the uploads to Google Drive occur at night.
Use some form of version control
This is probably one place where my solution could use improvement because complete data loss isn’t the only reason you might need to restore a file. Being able to revert back to previous versions of your game files after determining a change wasn’t going to work is essential and can take a lot of time if you aren’t using some form of version control. I certainly could do a better job of versioning my files, but I do have access to some version history through Google Drive which is better than nothing.
Test your solution regularily
Even the best backup solution has the potential of breaking down and not working and when you are trying to restore files isn’t the time to discover your backups haven’t been working. Regular checks of your backups are extremely important. One of the nice things about my backup strategy is that I can browse to the file shares on my NAS and in Google Drive and see that the files are there, but occasionally downloading them to ensure the syncing is happening correctly is still something I should be doing.
Well, that is everything for this week. I hope that someone finds this information helpful and that it helps prevent others from having to deal with lost data. If you have a strategy in place, what are you doing? I would love to hear about it. Until next time, happy designing.