Backing Up Research Lab Systems

This article is intended to give you guidelines for backing up research data on lab systems.  When hard drives go bad, losing research data, documents and email can be a catastrophic event, meaning lost productivity, lost research, lost grants, or worse.  Because data recovery shops can charge from $1,500 to $10,000 to recover information from "dead" or damaged hard drives, we strongly urge you to take steps to backup your research data.  A backup will pay for itself quickly, in addition to providing peace of mind.  You have lots of options for making backups.  The gold standard in making backups is to have at least two additional copies of your data, one of which is stored somewhere other than where you keep your computer. 

TSO provides CrashPlan PROe backup services for TSO managed research file servers in data centers.  If you are interested in purchasing a file server, contact TSO for more information.

 

So, what are some good methods for maintaining backups for lab systems?

 

  1. USE BUILT-IN FEATURES OF YOUR OPERATING SYSTEM OR YOUR FAVORITE SHAREWARE SOFTWARE:  

    You can use native backup programs found on your operating system.  Apple provides Time Machine with Mac OS.  Microsoft provides Windows Backup and Robocopy.  Linux provides rsync (versions also available for Windows and OS X).  Ubuntu also provides DuplicityDeja Dup.  If the built-in software is not desirable, consider using your favorite shareware software such as Carbon Copy Coner or SuperDuper! for the Mac or something similar for Windows.  Use the backup software to copy your data to a large-capacity USB key or USB hard drive.  Do this to two different devices and keep one of them somewhere else like another building altogether or a safe-deposit box.  It takes some ongoing effort to update your off-premise copy, but you can often update your on-site USB hard drive automatically.  Use encryption features when sensitive data is involved.
     
  2. COPY YOUR DATA TO A SERVER IN THE COC DATA CENTER:  

    You can use tools like rsync to copy your research data to your CoC home directory or a TSO managed research file server, which are backed up by TSO.  Use automatic features of your operating system to periodically schedule the rsync.  Using this method to back up non-GT business data such as personal music, photos or movies, is not appropriate.  When you store personal data on GT-owned storage resources it very likely violates policies on misuse of state resources (see the CNUSP) since it would be other than "incidental personal use", and very likely make your personal data subject to inquiry under the Georgia Open Records act.
     
  3. USE A CLOUD-BASED BACKUP SERVICE: 

    If your data is not sensitive, you might be able to use an on-line service, such as CrashPlan, Mozy, or Carbonite to back up your files to "the cloud."  Use encryption features when possible.  Using the cloud to back up sensitive research data is not recommended due to security and patent reasons.  Contact TSO if you need advice to back up sensitive data.