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We recently had a close call at work, which as these things do, showed several problems in the way things were being handled in addition to the security breach that started the problem. One of these that came to the forefront was the need to keep adhering to a regular backup schedule. It is important to keep backups for those times when something unforeseen happens. You might drop and break your computer, a hard drive might fail, a hack may destroy your files, or some other detrimental event can happen, leaving you with an immediate and dire need for those backups.
Back Up Frequently and Always
Regular backups should be done weekly at a minimum, if not daily. In fact, when working on something important, you might want to save the work hourly to make sure that you don’t lose any of it. The problem is that people tend to relax about the importance of their backups when they don’t need to use them for a year or two. It’s a natural tendency to not attach as much importance to something that you never use, than when you have had to use those backups recently. After a couple of years, people tend to do a worse job of keeping their backups up to date. This is a tendency that needs to be fought against. That is precisely the time they become even more important. Just because you haven’t needed them lately does not mean that you will never need them. It is much better to have them and not need them than to desperately need them and not have them available.
We should all look at what we keep on our computers and just what it would mean if our computer vanished in the morning with everything on it. Would you be able to continue what you are working on? Would you still have all the files you need for your work? Would you still have all your email and contacts available? Ideally, the answer to all of these should be, yes. Keeping to a proper backup procedure will ensure that is the answer you have for these questions.
How to Back up Your Files
I know the importance of good backups but I still found that my backups were not as up to date as they should be when I checked on them this last week. I shall be setting my backup procedures in place quite a bit more thoroughly now. Windows provides a couple of backup procedures itself and our company makes space available on a company server for our personal backups in addition to the usual backups that out servers make for any work that is done on them or stored on them. You can set your Windows backup to back up your files on a regular schedule and save them to your network storage.
You can find that in the Control Panel, under /System and Security/Backup and Restore/Back up your computer.
You can also manually save files you are working on to the same place in a separate folder.
Important Factors When Backing Up Files
There are several factors to consider when making and storing your backups. How secure is the storage site? Keep in mind what the access procedures are to get to your backups. Are they sufficient enough to protect your information? The more important the information, the more important it is to back it up. You want to make sure that the place where you put those backups is at least as secure as you make your computer if not more secured. You don’t want to put backups of sensitive company or personal information on a server that is easily accessed by others. In our case, we have a company server available to use that solves that problem. The company server is also subject to a regular backup schedule and procedures ensuring that if it ever has a problem that the information will still be recoverable.
You also want to make sure that you have enough room available for your backups. If there is not enough room in your storage area for what you want to put there, then that is obviously a problem. In our case, it is not much of a problem as the company provided space should be more than sufficient even for those who have a lot of files to store. The important thing is to take a few minutes and think about how your material is being backed up and to set up the proper backup procedures. If it has been some time since you checked your backups, do so on a regular basis to make sure they are there and usable. It doesn’t take long to get a good backup procedure in place but it can be a major catastrophe when something happens and you end up needing those backups and they are not there.
What to Back Up
What files do you need to save? There are several areas to consider. There are Your Documents, your recent documents, application data, media, heirlooms and your system. Your Documents will be files that you use often so you would want to be able to restore them. Your recent documents is mostly important if you do work off your computer and have files you carry on a USB drive, or if you are doing an incremental backup. An incremental backup is where you are just saving the changes since your last backup and is a way of not having to back everything up every time. Your application data is stored at C:\Users\your name\appdata\. This is where you will find most of your programs and applications.
You will probably want to have backups of them so you don’t lose the information on the apps and so you don’t have to go through the process of reinstalling all of them individually. Next, you have your media, which is all of your pictures, music and videos. You may need a separate area for these if they are extensive. This is also a good area for just incremental backups as you will only add new entries to the backup copies. Next are heirlooms. This is anything that is especially important for you and your family, Copies of special photos, documents, mementos or anything else of special significance to you. Your system refers to your operating system. It is normally not too hard to come up with a new copy of your system, though having one available as an ISO or clone can be very handy.
The main thing to remember is to make sure that you are making your backups. Also make sure that those backups are secure, and that everything you need is in those backups. If you do all of that and check them on a regular basis, you should have no problem if and when the time comes that you need to make use of your backups to restore your files.
Author: Robert Hunt, Systems Administrator / Web Development
Robert Hunt received his Bachelor of Science in Information Systems with a concentration in Web Development in 2010 at the age of 56. A few classes away from having his Master’s Degree in Software Engineering, this is his first job in his new IT career. His first career was in construction where he supervised large trim carpentry projects. He loves his work and the challenges it brings. He enjoys gaming, learning about IT, building computers and spending time with his wife and family.