As we move more of our data to computers and become more reliant on them it
is becoming increasingly important to backup files and data effectively. In
our experience many companies don't even backup data let a lone have a robust
backup policy and procedure. Even fewer home users concern themselves with backup.
In this article we will discuss the important areas you need to think about
to implement an effective backup policy within your home or office.
What is backup
Okay this may be obvious to a lot of people but some don't understand the concept.
Backup is nothing more than a copy of your files or data in one form or
another that you save somewhere so that in the event that you need to recover
files or data you can. It can be as simple as copying files from My Documents
to a removable drive or CD.
Even the smallest of files can be hard to recover. It is important you
backup all files including installed software and system files. It can take
days to recover a crashed system from scratch if you have to reinstall every
last piece of software and configure the system.
One thing people often forget about those configuration and data files that
are stored in odd or alternate locations, don't let them give you the slip.
Check where your software saves its data to.
Organize your system and store files in a central location using a sensible
folder structure. If you have never given this much thought and have lots of
files and data floating around this is going to take you some time to sort out,
however, in the end it is worth it as it will help you maximize your coverage
with minimal effort.
Backup doesn't have to be a daily process it doesn't even have to be weekly.
It is important to consider how important the data is, how often is it updated,
and how long it would take to get back to where it was at.
Data files on transactional systems such as sales and customer management databases
should be backed up daily if not more frequently. After all can you really afford
to lose a day's worth of data?
Separate your backups
This should be of great concern to you and you should always be thinking worse
case scenario. Imagine your premises are completely gutted by fire, where are
your backups? In a filing cabinet in the next office?
You should store backups at locations remote to the live data that in the worse
case scenario could survive.
Companies often try to secure their computers and network and have adequate
measures in place however if your administrator is leaving the latest corporate
backup on his desk for any passer by to pick up you might as well not bother!
Ideally you need to be thinking about password protection, encrypting and physically
securing your backups (for example in a safe).
Testing and integrity
You could be making months of corrupt and useless backups and unless you are
testing them you won't know until you need them, but then it is too late.
Ensure you test your backups regularly to check the data integrity and the
coverage of the backup.
This is particularly important if you do incremental backups which only backup
files that have recently been updated. But it is a good idea to keep a history
even if you do complete backups every time as it builds some further redundancy
into your backup process and gives you multiple points in time that you can
go back to.
How to backup
There are many ways for you to make a backup and plenty of third party software
and hardware suppliers offer various solutions for Windows. Some of
the more general methods of backup are listed below.
- Simply copying files from one location to another.
- Zipping or compressing a group of files or folders then moving the zipped
file to an alternate location.
- Using Windows backup to automatically create a backup archive.
- Third party backup tools and utilities.
- Disk imaging and cloning software
Where to save backups
There are a plethora of inexpensive media devices available to the home and
business user from CD and DVD writers to removable and external hard drives.
One of the primary concerns is economical storage space. This is why CD and
DVD writers are popular for small business and home users as the discs are cheap,
offer a decent storage capacity, are fairly robust and you can easily keep a
External and removable hot swappable hard drives offer huge storage capacities
and are ideal for disc images and storing larger or numerous backup sets.
Backup can be seen as a painful process but with a little thought and routine
a reliable system can be put in place. If you aren't already managing the backup
process for your data effectively then you should start today before it's too
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