The 7 Rules of Backups

Are you creating a game but don’t have backups? I know people who are so paranoid (and paranoid is good in having backups) who backup everything every 2 hours. And they backup in several locations. They want to make sure they never get into a situation where a work of several days is lost.

There are some guidelines to making backups, see them yourself.

#1 – Data losses can happen to you
Don’t believe that your game data will be safe, or that backup recoveries are something that happens to somebody else. It can happen to you. Viruses, hard drive crashes, system crashes etc. can make tremendous damage to your game production, if you have not backed everything.

#2 – The most dangerous data loss threat causer is you
Yes, the most common data losses don’t happen because system crashes or other threats. It’s much more like that you accidently delete or damage a file or a folder.

#3 – Make two copies of critical data
More is better than less in backing up data. If you have really critical data (that would be your game production files) then periodically backup that data to different places. One good idea could be to send all your game data to a secure place at your webhosting. Besides this you could have external disk or tape and perhaps a CD or DVD. Memory sticks can be handy with small amount of data. This way you can have all the data in 2, 3 or even 4 different places.

#4 – Backup it regularly
Make sure you backup regularly. Do it once a month, once a week, every day, every 2 hours, after a major update, before the launch. But make sure you do it. Depending on your pace and time on production you might survive with simply one or two backups per month. Intense development would require every day backups, or even hourly.

#5 – Make it easy to backup
One reason why people don’t backup their data might be that it’s not easy to do. You might have a DVD backup system and think it takes too much time to backup everything. Spend a few bucks on a proper backup tools and you can run the backup program in background… almost without noticing it to happen.

#6 – Understand the need for backups
Another reason why indie producers don’t care about backups is because data losses have never happened to them, and they think they are safe. Ask yourself: would it be bad for you if all your data would be lost? I mean everything. Every single line of code, every little note, all project documentation and plans? If all would be lost, would that be a bad thing? Understand that backups are crucial. It doesn’t cost much to make backups, but the importance of backups comes very obvious when something happens.

#7 – Start now
Don’t plan to start making backups ‘next month’ or ‘in the future’. Start now. If you don’t start now, then you are not going to start ever. Find a backup device, buy it right away and schedule your computer to make backups.

Do it now.

Juuso Hietalahti


  1. backups that encrypt the data and only backup the changed files are the best. The most important thing though is that there should be very little (or no) human interaction once the initial backup has been set up. Good article.

  2. Another possibility would be to backup your stuff on a webserver. That way you are also able to download it from everywhere. You should of course make sure that no one else can access this. The good thing about that is that the webhosting providers normally back it up automatically. Of course that wouldn’t mean there is no neccessarity for an additional backup CD ;)

  3. @Hamumu,

    #1 MS-Backup is faultless – learn to use it.
    #2 Norton Ghost – it’s a priceless if you need a whole system rebuild
    #3 Get a tape backup unit, they are expensive but save money in the long run. I recommend using HP, you can’t go wrong.

  4. What are these things I can spend money on to make backing up seamless? Specific names? Right now it’s too much of a pain for me, and I know I’ll get bit someday.

  5. #8: Store a copy of the backup at a different site. I lucked out when a tornado hit my home in 1999. It could have really sucked but luckily the Case Logic cases I stored my discs in provided adequate protection. The same wouldn’t be true of a fire. So keep a copy at work and another at home or in the trunk of your car or in a safety deposit box or all of the above if you are really paranoid.

  6. I think the only way most people learn this is from experience. After 3 hdd crashes over 2 years, it certainly taught me a lesson!

  7. You missed the #1 most important point ALWAYS verify the integrity of your backups and have a RESTORE policy! There is no point backing everything up every two hours (and yes it’s me) if you can’t get the data back.

    I make incremental backups, basically I only backup the changes. This is quicker and it also ensures that I can restore any changes I may have made to code.

    And finally, store your backups off-site in a fireproof safe or in a bank vault. This might sound like overkill but your business is your data.

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