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Backups, as far as many folks are concerned, are one of the most boring topics imaginable. Of course, that only extends to the point at which you need them; then they’re still boring, but you really really hope you have them. Most of the time, backing up your data is simple–if you’re at home, get an external drive, plug it into your machine, and make sure you back things up regularly.  If you’re at work, things often get a lot simpler than that: someone from IT provides you with a backup solution or even makes it happen without your needing to intercede. At work, backups become something of an assumed thing (provided that you’re not the person in IT who’s administrating them). Things only start to get sticky when you take that work computer home.

Imagine a situation in which your employer has issued you a laptop for work (not too hard to do, I should think). Because it’s portable, and maybe because it’s a better machine than what you own, you use it for non-work purposes, loading it with personal documents, photos, music, maybe even games. Depending on your organizational ethic, some of these personal files may be mixed in with your work documents (which are often considered to be the property of your organization, though your mileage may vary from this hypothetical situation). With your personal files mixed in with work files, your employer is now spending disk space on backing up non-essential (from their point of view) files; this is also probably known as wasting that space inside the walls of your tech office.

Yes, storage is cheap, but implementing that storage still takes time, which raises the question of how to deal with the issue of backing up only the files which your company can claim ownership over. Yes, you can issue backup drives to employees and put the onus of backups on them, but that raises its own set of problems.  User error happens, and often even the most vigilant of users will forget to make that backup at some critical juncture. Even trusting your users and stressing to them that they are responsible for their own backups, there are some users whose files are too important in one way or another to trust only to their own backups.  Too many users carry their backup drive, if it’s easily portable, in the same bag as their laptop, thus ensuring total loss of data in the event of a theft.

Cloud storage would seem to be a solution: just drop your files into a special folder, and they’re automagically available anywhere you have internet.  The problem comes back to separating personal data from work data, specifically in the event of employee termination or retirement. Not all cloud storage is created equal, and the most well-known solutions are mostly consumer/individual-oriented rather than enterprise-oriented. For Google Apps organizations, Drive is a fine solution, though it has its limits–permissions are nowhere near as fine-grained as you would find in a Windows domain or a UNIX-like filesystem, which presents a problem in more security-oriented organizations where a data breach could have serious consequences. If data is on a Drive account managed by a company’s domain, it is still recoverable if an employee leaves. This is not possible, though, with personal Google accounts, Dropbox, or other such services.

In the end, there isn’t any one easy solution–a robust data security/recovery strategy requires several levels and different considerations for different groups of users. No two organizations are likely to have exactly the same needs, but the questions should be largely the same.

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