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When "No backup" is the better backup

Key Visual Hack of the week

Backups are essential. In my time as an IT forensic specialist, I have performed several backups for work colleagues and friends from defective data carriers, and that's only because they didn't think about the backup. So not having a backup is like Russian roulette: you never know when disaster will strike. So to say that a backup is not necessary, as the title suggests, is not quite true, but there are situations where it is not mandatory to have a backup on every device. But we will get to that in a moment.


by Stefan Koch

The chance of losing data is highest, especially with mobile devices such as notebooks. The devices can be stolen, or the hardware can be damaged as a result of falls or knocked-over drinking glasses, etc.

There are various backup strategies and methods, below I describe different approaches. Note: These are backup approaches in private or SMB environments. For enterprise environments, of course, a backup strategy should be realized, which is deeply integrated into the IT strategy of the company.

Noob Hack

Backup approach 1

Using system means or backup software, the notebook's data is backed up to an external hard drive.


- Simple and fast setup
- The data is in complete custody of the owner


- The backup can be performed only when the external hard disk is connected
- The hard disk is not scalable
- Spatial separation: If the notebook and the hard disk are in the same place, the data is irrevocably lost in case of fire, theft, etc.
- The hard disk can also be broken


Backup approach 2

A network-attached storage (NAS) on the local network is selected as the destination for the backup
A NAS offers a bit more reliability than a single hard disk


- Better scalability
- Data is in complete custody of the owner
- No manual plugging in of devices. Backup starts as soon as the notebook has network connection to the NAS


- The notebook must be on the local network, or the NAS must be configured for access from the Internet
- No spatial separation in case of disaster



Backup approach 3

The backup is saved directly to the cloud using appropriate backup software.
You can choose between different software and cloud providers.

I have used this variant successfully for years. I chose the low-cost provider Dropbox for cloud storage. Of course, it would never occur to me to simply upload my private data to the cloud, but is protected with strong encryption. As an example, the use of Arq-Backup can be recommended here. Arq-Backup is inexpensive, can be used on multiple devices and encrypts the data on the device before it is uploaded to the cloud.


- Backup is created automatically as soon as the device is connected to the Internet
- Even if all my devices are destroyed or stolen, I can still access my data


- The backup must be encrypted
- It needs an Internet connection
- Directed to a cloud provider

The interface of Arq backup looks like this:



Pro Hack

I use multiple devices including notebooks, MacBooks, PC's and small home servers. In addition, I also take care of my wife's and children's devices. This way, I have a consistent strategy and the data is backed up regularly. But here's the downside to this approach: I always have a backup of all data, but I have several different backups of the same data. For example, I'm editing a document on my desktop PC. When I'm on the road, I edit the document on a notebook, and so on. So the file is backed up on each device. If I need to restore the backup or file, then I have to look at all the backups to see which file is the most recent. Also, more storage is needed in the cloud, which in turn costs more.

Backup approach 4

My current setup is that I host all my data with a cloud provider. In my case, that's Microsoft's Onedrive. I store all files in the OneDrive folder. No data is stored outside of that folder. When I start up a new device, all I have to do is set up OneDrive and I already have access to all my data. As soon as I create or modify a file, they are synced with the OneDrive service. One advantage of this is that I can work on the same files on different devices. However, this is a synchronization, not a backup.

I only set up the backup on a single device, which in my case is the mini-server at home, which is in use 24/7. So my data is continuously synced to the server and it makes a continuous backup of it. As another benefit, the data is synced with one provider, backed up with another. So even if one provider fails (unlikely), I still have access to my data.


- One central backup
- 2. cloud provider: higher availability
- Smaller storage space with multiple devices


- The device that creates the central backup should always be in operation


Returning to the title of this hack: it is not necessary to implement a backup mechanism on each device. It is enough to synchronize the data and then back it up on one device.

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