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Thursday, April 14, 2011

How to lose backed-up data (Or: How to have a disappointing day)

I'm pretty thorough about backing up my data. Here's my typical routine:

  1. Any school-related files are in Dropbox, so they're available everywhere and backed up.
  2. A rsync script cron job makes a new "snapshot" of all my data to an internal 2TB drive inside my computer. The script runs every 8 hours and keeps the 3 most recent snapshots.
  3. The same rsync script run manually copies to an external, encrypted 2TB drive that I take to my office.
So that's three copies of data in two different physical locations. Good strategy, right? But here's where things go wrong:
  1. Remove original boot drive and replace with SSD and fresh Ubuntu installation.
  2. Copy old files into /home on new drive. (Now I have 4 copies of data!) Instead of copying everything, directories are moved one-by-one to avoid importing cruft and unnecessary hidden files.
  3. Set up rsync script cron job again. (In 24 hours, all the old snapshots are gone. Now I'm down to 3 copies of data again.)
  4. After making sure everything works properly, format old boot drive and use for something else. (Now down to 2 copies of data.)
  5. Realize that a (rather insignificant, thankfully) subdirectory of my home directory wasn't copied. (So there's now only 1 copy of that data, on the 2TB drive at my office.)
  6. Arrive to office to find out it's been broken into and the drive was stolen. (DATA LOST!)
That's certainly not the way to have a good day, but thankfully (a) the files weren't important, and (b) the data was encrypted, so I don't have to worry about identity theft. (Well, except for all the other ways identities get stolen.) So far it doesn't appear the thief took much, and I'm glad I didn't leave my laptop in my office over the weekend.

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