She Asks IT, He Answers IT

Is Your Data Safe? REALLY Safe?

She Asks IT:

“Save your work often.”

Those are the words instilled by my college professors in the late 1990’s. I learned to hit that little blue diskette button pretty much every time I changed a sentence. But marriage to a computer tech has taught me that, without backing up my hard drive, I am one crash away from losing absolutely everything.

Yes, I could put important files on a flash drive. But I have trouble keeping up with things smaller than a lipstick. Plus, I do not want some random person finding it, putting it in an unknown computer and reading my still-unpublished romance novel.

I could also burn my files to a CD, but, really, that takes a whole lot of time and effort to get a CD out, select my files, burn them to it, label it and store it. (At least it SEEMS like a lot of time.)

Still, I HAVE heard the sounds of a hard drive breathing its last. “The click of death,” Charles calls it. And I recently saw an episode of “Sex and the City” where Carrie Bradshaw loses all of her columns. In the end, she starts using a bulky tape drive. I do not see myself doing that, either.

With recent progressions in technology, there MUST be some simpler, better and more convenient backup solutions for people like me. What are they? How can I TRULY save my important data without sacrificing too much time and energy? (And do I have to do it every single day?)

He Answers IT

You are correct in recognizing the importance of backups. Statistics indicate that, after a major data loss, 80 to 90 percent of companies are out of business within two years. Different computing environments and network setups call for different backup strategies, but every business needs one that works.

It is best to have three copies of your data: the original data, one easily accessible backup, and one offsite copy in case of fire, an act of God, or even a malicious employee. Regularly scheduled backups should be as automated as possible, eliminating the need for human interaction.

In addition, backups should also be periodically confirmed and tested. I have seen companies with backup strategies in place and backup jobs running “successfully” every night. The customer, however, did not realize that only a small portion of their data was selected for backup. Finding out that your shopping list for last Christmas is recoverable after a catastrophic server failure is of little comfort if the last eight years of QuickBooks company data has gone “up in smoke.”

Full server backups are usually copied to tape or disk based media. But what about end user or home user data not stored on a server? Usually, this is the data that gets overlooked. In a properly configured business network, server operating systems now provide easy ways to “re-direct” end-user data to shared server locations. This means the nightly server backup also backs up every user’s Documents, Favorites, Desktop and more. These server backups can then be transferred to online storage or the media can be moved offsite on a regular rotation. Home users can also take advantage of online backup services or cost efficient external hard drives. And they, too, should always have a safe place to store backups in case of a catastrophe.

Email is also an often overlooked backup area. There are ways to back up emails, although such backups must be handled a little differently if your email is not on Microsoft Exchange. But considering the amount of important information held in email, contacts and calendars, this backup is just as important as any server data.

The bottom line is, if there is data in your computer environment that your business requires to function, make sure it is being backed up properly and often. With the right backup procedures in place, data loss need not be catastrophic.