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Having a good backup system in place is not enough

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Tech Talk by Peter Mate
Peter Mate is owner and president of Planit Canada, a software and services company devoted to servicing the manufacturing industry. For more info email
I hope that no one gets anything out of this column, but if that were true, I wouldn’t have to write it in the first place.
There are those things in life that we know we should do, but they sometimes get pushed aside and today’s fires consume our attention.
It could be different things for different folks.
Maybe it’s that will you were going to get to. Maybe it’s a doctor’s visit. Maybe it’s finally decluttering the basement. We all know that we should do it, but it sometimes takes a backseat and eventually gets forgotten until the day comes where it can no longer be put aside. That might be the day we die, the day we fall ill or the day we sell the house. Whatever it is, the day will always come.
For software, that task is backups. I know, boring. It’s boring until the day comes that we need that backup to save tons of work we’ve done or important documents we need access to. These days, the challenge of corrupt files still happen, but they are less frequent. Even though some threats to our data have diminished over time, others have appeared. Today, cyberthreats, attacks, fraud, ransomware are more prevalent than ever. In our industry, it seems like we can’t go one year without a fellow Canadian shop going up in flames. This threat is still very real, especially for 
our industry.
We recently had a customer that lost a lot of work that was done over the past nine months. They were devastated. A routine server change turned into a high stress situation when the customer realized that not all files had been transferred over to the new server and the old one was wiped clean. Luckily, a copy was found, and the files restored, but this could have been a major setback.
Having a good backup system in place is not enough. There should be multiple backups and of different kinds. Today, backups are easier 
than ever. You need to be covered in the event the building your computer is in burned down. In the event your computer is stolen from your car. In the event that your 
home burns down and in the event a Cyberattack is made on your system.
Most of us have laptops these days. There are tons of docking systems for laptops. You may be using one already. You get to the office, you plug into the dock and it connects to your external monitor, keyboard, etc. This is an easy place to plug in an external hard drive and setup an automatic backup on a schedule. It happens in the background and you don’t even have to think about it. This would just be another safety net in addition to backing your computer up to a local server you are connected to.
Another easy backup would be to back up your important files to the cloud. There are many services that are very inexpensive that will keep a copy of your files in a remote location in the cloud. Storage is pretty inexpensive these days, so you could opt to keep several backups so that you could go back in time and get files from a past date.
At the very minimum, having a local backup and a cloud backup is prudent. When you do this, don’t forget about the other computers that might benefit from backups. These days, you likely have computers on the shop floor. You can backup files and settings from your CNC machine, your shop computers and your server.
I know. Now is not a good time. That’s OK. Set a time in your calendar to deal with it soon before the day comes that it becomes your biggest fire to put out. Once you have it setup, place a calendar entry recurring every year in your calendar to revisit to see if everything is still ok or if you need to make changes. If you bought a new CNC, this would be the time to add it to the backups. I hope the day never comes where you lose files that you need, but it likely will. When it does, you’ll get a copy from one of your backups and it will be a non-issue allowing you to continue dealing with the fires of the day.

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