Effective backups for community organisations

Australia is currently being targeted by “ransomware”. This is a form of virus which infects a targets computer, encrypts all the files, then demands payment for a password so you can access your files again. The best protection against this is to not open unexpected attachments on e-mail, and to ensure you have an effective backup of your key systems.

To be effective, a backup should be stored at a different location from the system it is backing up. There are commercial companies which can provide this service, but these may be out of reach for communal organisations. A cheap “do it yourself” solution is to backup your server / local drive to an external drive on a regular basis, and to store this drive away from your office e.g. to have someone take it home. We recommend doing this between once a week and once a month depending on your organisation.  This is long enough that hopefully any problems will not also affect the backup, but regular enough that you won’t lose too much data if you do end up relying on the backup. Another advantage is that you can also synchronise the external drive with a home computer or laptop, allowing you to maintain a redundant system you can use if your main computer has serious problems.

You can purchase an external hard drive e.g. a 1 Terabyte drive like this one for $89, or for $109 you can purchase this one with encryption. Some drives come with synchronisation software, and some don’t. At OHPI we use a separate synchronisation product called Allway Sync (US$25.95).

Note that this approach is not a substitute for having a series of backups from different dates, if you do want a full backup archive. It is however a significant step forward for organisations that are not currently backing up their systems at all. It is also a much faster system as the synchronisation software only updates files which have changed. This means it avoids copying most of your files, and backup runs (except for the first one) may therefore take only a few minutes rather than hours.