Helping people with computers... one answer at a time.

Any kind of a backup is a good idea and can save the files that you care about after a crash or a hack.

In view of the Matt Honin experience, is a continuously connected and open backup like Seagate FreeAgent Desk with the MEMEO program a good idea?

In this excerpt from Answercast #46, I look at the benefits of a continuous backup program and how that would have saved Matt Honan's data after a remote-wipe.

Continuous open backups

I have a hard time saying that any kind of a backup is a bad idea!

I'm not actually familiar with the MEMEO program, so I can't speak to it specifically, but I'm going to say that, "Yes, it's a good idea."

  • It's a backup!

  • It's a good idea!

I'm not sure exactly what about the Matt Honin situation would reflect negatively on this kind of a backup, or for that matter, on any kind of a backup. The fact is Mr. Honin lost most of his data specifically because he did not have a backup of any sort.

A continuously operating backup, theoretically, would allow you to revert files that have been deleted (say by a remote wipe kind-of a program such as affected him). It would allow you to revert those to the state that they were in:

  • Yesterday,

  • Or the day before,

  • Or whenever.

That really depends on the specific configuration of the backup program. But I know that any backup program you have is going to be backing up files that you care about to your backup media.

  • Even if those files then get deleted by "whatever means,"

  • The whole idea of the backup is that you should be able to get them back.

So, the short answer is no. I see no problem at all with having a continuously operating backup.

I definitely prefer that you have some kind of a backup regularly operating daily ideally or continuously, if that's the way it works well for you. I'd much rather have you have that then no backup at all.

Article C5724 - August 23, 2012 « »

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Leo Leo A. Notenboom has been playing with computers since he was required to take a programming class in 1976. An 18 year career as a programmer at Microsoft soon followed. After "retiring" in 2001, Leo started Ask Leo! in 2003 as a place for answers to common computer and technical questions. More about Leo.

Not what you needed?

Charles Brown
August 24, 2012 9:34 AM

I also use a "continuous" backup program - Ghost. But I run an incremental backup on MWF of each week and a full backup once a month. This article made me think, 'does the latest backup overwrite the earlier backups?' If so, the OP's concern would be valid - as if the computer was wiped, the continuous backup would also be wiped, and you would have no backup.

So I checked my backups. Turns out there is a very large file on the 1st of the month, and smaller files on MWF. Only the changes since the last incremental are saved on MWF. So if my computer was wiped, the last incremental could contain the wiped data, but the one before would have everything.

Another 'redundant' thought, if the computer was wiped, the backup program probably wouldn't run anyway!

So in summary, it seems to me, a good incremental 'continuous' backup would not be affected by a wiped computer. I think it is a great idea!

Mark J
August 24, 2012 10:09 AM

I think the scenario the question is referring to is that if the continuous backup was connected when the computer was hacked into, the hacker would also have access to the external drive and be able to wipe that also.

August 24, 2012 7:59 PM

After having Leo preach at me for 6 months about the importance of having a backup strategy, I finally went out the other week and bought a 3 TB Western Digital My Book Essential. It comes with WD's continuous backup software.

Within 48 hours I decided to not use the continuous backup. The reason: I clicked the restore option and browsed what files I could restore.

While it did backup the Users directory (Windows 7), it did not backup any .exe file that it found in the Users directory. I had recently downloaded a program but hadn't burned a copy to CD, yet.

While it's true I could just download the software again, to me it left me wondering would there be other types of files in the future that it might not backup because they are not of a particular pre-defined type.

Instead I got myself a copy of Easus Todo's Free Backup software, and setup a schedule for full and incremental backups. I don't leave the drive connected to my computer or even in the same place as my computer. I figure if someone steals my computer they'll take the drive as well. So better to keep the backup drive away from the computer.

August 25, 2012 3:31 AM

You don't caution that a continuous backup records what's on your hard drive. Therefor when the computer crashes the faulty data get recorded and you lose the "good data"
I found it useless! Maybe I did it wrong!!!!

With almost any properly configured backup, continuous or otherwise, you should be able to restore to a point prior to whatever was written to your disk to cause the problem, even if that was backed up. For example if you get malware on Tuesday and that's backed up, restore to the image as of Monday, before the malware arrived. Yes, this does mean setting up your backup software properly - the defaults will vary from program to program.

Mike Davies
August 28, 2012 8:53 AM

I think the scenario the question is referring to is that if the continuous backup was connected when the computer was hacked into, the hacker would also have access to the external drive and be able to wipe that also.
Posted by: Mark J at August 24, 2012 10:09 AM

@ Mark J
Very good point. So, safely unhook the continuous back-up, and regularly back up the computer onto a second drive.

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