August 31, 2010

Surf’s Up – Internet News – Backing Up Your Data

By Chris Cournoyer

In today’s ever-changing world of technology, a “backup” or the process of “backing up” your computer refers to making copies of your computer files so that these copies may be used to restore the original files after a data loss event. A data loss event can be anything that causes your files not to be available, including an unintential deletion of a file, a software bug or virus, theft of your computer, power failure or spikes, and a complete computer or hard drive “crash.”

Backing up your data is the most important, yet also one of the most neglected areas of computing. Backing up your data should be at the top of your computer maintenance list, right next to Virus Protection. If you don’t have a backup, you risk losing your data… permanently. I have often heard: “It’s not a matter of IF you’ll lose your data, it’s a matter of WHEN”. 66% of Internet users surveyed claimed to have experienced at least one major loss of data files without current backup copies.

Why do a back up?

You might think that you probably don’t really have anything worth backing up, nothing important, no big deal. Let’s go through just a few items to jog your memory.

Let’s start with your favorite places on the Internet and that long list of bookmarks. How about the e-mail addresses from your family and friends? What about that to-do list, calendar or all of those great photos? How about that family history you collected over the years and put into a database? Think about that saved game of your favorite game where it took you weeks or months to get to that level. These are just the most common examples, and I know that after thinking about it for a while you will realize that there is a lot of information you don’t want to lose. THAT, my friend, is why you should back up your data regularly.

What data should you back up?

The answer is simple. Back up anything you can’t replace! Here’s a list to get you started: Documents, Letters, Reports, Spreadsheets, Mailing lists, Email, Financial Records, Tax Returns, Banking records, Investment records, Photographs, Music, Movies/Videos, Addresses, Phone numbers, Saved games, Computer and program settings

How to back up

To make backing up your data easier, it helps if your data is organized. You should make a point of saving all your documents, no matter what it is, in one central location. That’s what the “My Documents” folder is for. You can make subfolders called Private and Business, and subcategorize those more. This way 95% of your backup will be done by simply copying the My Documents folder, which is very easy and convenient. But don’t forget, as I mentioned earlier, to also back up your bookmarks and e-mail data. If you use MS Internet Explorer, you need to back up the folder C:\Windows\Favorites which contains the bookmarks and the folder C:\Windows\Application Data\Microsoft\Address Book for your e-mail addresses and the folder C:\Windows\Application Data\Microsoft\Outlook Express for your e-mail if you use Outlook Express. If you use Netscape, you need to back up the folder C:\Program Files\Netscape\Users\(your user name here), it contains all your Netscape related data.

When you back up your computer, you need to make sure to keep the copy of your important files in a separate location for retrieval in case of an emergency. Keeping a copy of it in another folder on the same hard drive is not a good idea. You should put your backup on a separate media such as a CD or a portable hard drive. Preferably, you have two backups on two separate types of media in two places.

Recently I have seen some ads for online backup storage, where you can rent disk space online and upload your data for backup.

Additional Considerations

The backups described above will of course only back up the data files or documents. This means if you lose a hard drive, you need to reinstall the operating system and the programs first and then retrieve the data. If you want to save yourself the hassle of reinstalling everything, there are programs that will take a snapshot of your drive and save an image of the drive as is. When you have to start over with a blank hard drive, you just restore the disk image and you’re back in business, no reinstalling of any programs are necessary.

If you want the backup process to happen automatically, you can get a backup program that does the backup on a regular basis and lets you schedule full and incremental backups.

Last, remember to back up regularly. You don’t want to have something happen to your data, then restore your backup just to realize it is 6 months old. Depending on your computer activity, you should back up either weekly or at least monthly. It is also a good idea to store your
backups off-site, like in your safe deposit box in your bank or anywhere else where they can’t be harmed when your house burns down or is
burglarized. It’s your data, keep it safe