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Backing up your data

Why do I need to back-up my data?

Many reasons - data loss can be caused by power cuts, hard disk faults, virus & spyware, accidental erasure, physical shock and password loss to name but a few. We won't even mention disasters like a fire or flood. Backups serve as archives and as an audit trail as well as a way to restore or recover corrupted or accidentally deleted files.

How often do I need to back up?

How important is your data? A few letters can be re-typed fairly quickly, but the average office often has many years work stored on the computer. A general rule is to decide how much work are you willing to put in to duplicate any lost data - remember, if you back up once a week and the drive goes down just before you were about to perform the weekly backup, you may have to spend a week catching up! Sometimes the data cannot be replaced - email from potential customers or family photographs for instance. Businesses should consider daily (or even more frequent) backups.

OK, I'm convinced - how do I do it?

Small amounts of data can simply be copied to a CD, USB stick, external drive or network attached storage (e.g. another PC or laptop, NAS drive). Larger amounts may need to be compressed and/or a backing up utility used, which can selectively back-up data that has been changed since the last run. Some versions of Microsoft Windows have a built in utility, accessible from the start menu. Manual backups are easily forgotten or postponed if you are busy, so either give a named person responsibility or introduce an automated system.
Remember to verify the backup, i.e. ensure the data on the backup media is a good copy. I have seen several cases where the customer had been 'backing up' a series of shortcuts pointing to the real data on the now useless hard drive!
Use multiple backup sets wherever practical, and rotate them - one for each day of the week or at the very least, alternate sessions. If one back-up set is corrupt, you can use the one before.

The latest backup systems are 'cloud' based - stored on the Internet. A very simple to use example of this is Dropbox, 2GB of free automatic data storage. More available at a price or you can earn more free backup space if you refer others.

What do I back up?

Depends on how important the data is and how quickly you need to recover. If the computer and information is critical to your business and you cannot survive more than a few hours without it you could mirror the entire drive. Most people will only need to back up data which is changed - emails, graphics, letters, spreadsheets, configuration files etc. There is normally no need to back up operating systems, application software and drivers as these can be re-installed from the original media (you did keep the original disks safe, didn't you?) Internet and computer user names and passwords should be kept somewhere secure - perhaps a sealed envelope in the safe.

Storage of backups:

Backups should be stored OFF-SITE where practical, but remember to consider any security implications and the data protection act should they fall into the wrong hands.

For more information, give us a call or email Chris for an informal chat.

See here for one way of backing up your Linux box