Redundancy is the key to securing data using backups and archives. When designing a backup system put on your pessimist hat and think of all the things that could go wrong with your data. Then design a system to minimize risks at every failure point. One CRITICAL requirement of an archival system is multiple levels of redundancy.

Multiple Backups

The first line of defense is protecting against catastrophic data loss. These types of losses can be caused by fire, theft, or hardware failure. The best defense is to ALWAYS have your data in at least two places with one stored offsite. You can use multiple external drives with one on-site and one in safe deposit box or you can use online cloud storage. Ideally, your data should be in three places: (1) working copy on your computer, (2) on-site backup, and (3) and off-site archive.

Rotating Backups

Every backup and archive system MUST use multiple storage systems. I prefer external hard drives with one on-site and one off-site. When backing-up the current data on the working computer copy the data to a backup directory on the on-site drive. Then swap the on-site drive with the off-site drive. The old on-site drive is now the off-site archival drive, and vice versa. The copy those same files to the current on-site drive. Your data is now in two places with one off-site.

Rotating Directories

You should have your data well protected in case you accidentally delete a file or folder. When you backup your working computer I HIGHLY recommend using rotating backup folders. When backing-up your data create a new folder in this type of format:

_backup_yyyy-mm-dd → example: _backup_2018-02-01

Copy all of your data into that folder. Over time your drive will contain multiple sets of backup directories. If you need to access a previous backup then you have it readily available. You should maintain 2-5 backup sets. When you have too many backup sets then backup your current data and erase the oldest backup directory.