Backup Your Data

Ever had your computer crash on you , and you wish that you had done a backup of your important data that is now irretrievable? Have you ever had any sort of disaster with your computer that means that those photos from a once-in-a-lifetime holiday are now gone for ever, because you did not have a data backup policy? Find out here how to make sure that your data is always secure!

If you have any sort of data that you need to look after, you need to ensure that you regularly back up the data, and that you have a disaster recovery procedure in place, just in case.

Backup Media

Data including programs, documents, photos and multimedia files may be copied to Floppy Disks, CD or DVD, although you will probably find that even if you have a Floppy disk drive available, the data you need to back up takes up far too much space for this medium to be practical. As another alternative, you can obtain a separate mass storage device that can be connected to your computer in order to backup your data, then it can be stored somewhere safe. Mass storage disks can contain several hundred Gigabytes of space, so these should be enough for all but very large requirements. Sometime magnetic tape storage is used for data backups, especially for business use, as these can be  easily stored and re-used and have a very large capacity.

Backup Programs

While the PC Operating System has features that support data backup and recovery, there are lots of Third Party software products available that go beyond the basics and provide additional features to support secure data backup and recovery. Some products provide facilities for scheduling your backup process, so that you can ‘set and forget’. You can also select which files/folders will be backed up during the process, as it may not be necessary to perform the backup process for all files – e.g. your photo files that you have saved to a CD/DVD separately.

Other features of backup and recovery software:

  • Creation of a ‘recovery disk’ to allow start up of the system even if corrupted, Reading and repair of corrupted files
  • Incremental backups, i.e. the system only updates changed files to the backup area. This can be a considerable saving on disk space

Backup Process

How often you perform a data backup depends on the nature of the data, how often it changes, and how much of a risk it would be if there was a computer crash or other disaster. For some people, using the computer for personal use only, and storing such data as photos and documents, then a backup once per month may be sufficient. This could be supplemented by special backups, e.g. after downloading those holiday photos from your camera from that once-in-a-lifetime holiday. For people using their computer for business, where maybe there is financial data being stored, then a weekly or even daily procedure should be followed, to ensure that critical business data is not lost.

You should maintain a system of grandfather – father – son backups and recycle them from the oldest first, again, in order to economise on storage requirements.

System Recovery

When your computer crashes, it is possible that the system may either have died completely, or may start up with some functions still working. It is of course important to try and determine the cause of such computer crashes before trying to use the system again, a it may just crash a short time later. Operating Systems have various diagnostic software and computer logs, if available, should be examined to determine what unusual events could have caused the failure.  Some data recovery programs have the facility of creation of a special CD/disk that contains all the critical system programs to enable a start-up. This is a really useful facility if you can do this, as it will save a full disk re-format and reload, even if you have a full set of backups to restore your system. An alternative process for system recovery, is where the data backups consist of complete disk images, so all that is required is to reformat and restore the disk contents.

Regular and organised backups of your data will provide an essential tool to enable recovery in the event of a computer disaster, and all users should ensure that they have a data backup policy that is put into practice.

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