The Do’s and Don’ts of Data Backup
From the acceptance of the PC into the business and home environments, the issue of backing up data has gone from an afterthought to an essential part of computing. If you are wondering why data backup could have ever been an afterthought, the reason is that in the early days of computing responsible users would have a paper document supporting their most critical data. So if there was any type of computer failure there was a way to retrieve the data with only a minimal loss of time.
Today, most people depend on the computer for the storage and retrieval of a vast majority of their data, making data backup not just critical, but essential. So there is a lot we can learn from those early days and establish some essential do’s and don’ts of data backup.
1) Do backup early and backup often – Each person must decide how much they trust their network or personal software to perform daily backups. Some people prefer to backup manually for reasons of limited disk space or over-redundancy. Whichever method you choose, make sure you have a regular schedule and stick to it. When in doubt, back it up.
2) Do recognize that data backup systems are not perfect – This means that you need to check on the backup periodically to ensure no file corruption or other error has resulted in your data not being backed up. A power surge or short term power failure that goes unnoticed may have you believing a backup has occurred when it actually has not. The more critical your data, the more often the backup should be checked – either manually or through automated software.
3) Don’t take automated backups for granted – Automation is not yet at the point where we can relax and presume everything has gone as expected. The point of automation is to make our jobs and repetitive tasks easier, not take complete responsibility for the tasks. Yelling at your computer software will in most cases not get an intelligent response, so while using software to schedule regular data backups is a great idea, check on it once a month or so to make sure the settings are in order and that it is performing the tasks you assigned it to do.
4) Do buy a UPS system for essential data backup – A UPS (Uninterrupted Power Supply) can be a data saver and save you from a lot of headaches. Connecting a UPS to your computer and/or backup system will ensure that in the event of a short term power interruption your computer will complete the backup. You do not have to spend $10,000 unless your backups span several hours. You can get about 15 – 20 minutes of extra power for around $100.
5) Avoid redundancy – This is one of those do’s that is relative to the user. The average home user will not likely want to have 24 copies of their iTunes collection. In contrast, an accounting or legal firm may want to be so redundant as to be annoying. So, it depends. Most users will want a certain amount of redundancy, especially if they are keeping records for legal reasons or will have to spend a substantial amount of money to replace data that has been lost (such as a converted DVD collection.