Backing up

Your data could be lost in a number of different ways: a virus attack, hard drive failure, accidental deletion of files or folders, lightning strikes, power surges, even drinks spilled on the computer. Without wanting to spread doom and gloom, it is likely that you will suffer the consequences of lost data at some point in your computing life. I have personally had 2 hard drives fail on me in the past and my backups have saved the day on both occasions. Data loss can happen to anyone and it’s simply not worth leaving it to chance.

The good news is that it is very simple and reasonably inexpensive to backup your data. Backup costs are approximately £65 for the backup drive (this would either be a USB stick or an external drive) and less than an hour of labour to set everything up (the backup software itself is free).

There is plenty of free backup software which can be configured to do a “scheduled” or a “manual” backup. Scheduled backups are easier as they don’t require you to remember to do backups, but you must ensure that the computer is switched on at the scheduled time and ideally the user should not have any programs open so that the backup software can read all the files it needs to. Manual backups are run by the user on an “ad hoc” basis but you do need to remember to run them regularly.

An important step is to identify all your data so that everything gets backed up – documents, photos, music, videos, e-mails, contacts and Internet Favorites are the main areas. You need to backup to a separate physical drive too. Some software can back up the entire hard drive including Windows but after a disaster I much prefer to build Windows up from scratch then restore the data once Windows is up and running.

Backups can be “full” or “incremental” (incremental only backs up files altered since the last backup) but for safety, I generally always recommend a “full” backup. It is also important to ensure that your backup software does a “like for like” copy of the data – I have seen instances where the backup software packages up the data into its own file format and then in rare cases it can’t be recovered! Also, be wary of password-protecting or encrypting your data as this can hinder you from recovering your data too.

From time to time you should also ensure that you restore a file or two to check that backups can be recovered in an emergency. Most people forget to do this and just assume that the backups are happening and then discover (to their horror) that their backups are worthless.

If you feel that you could benefit from backups, please let me know and we can discuss your requirements. It is much simpler to set up than you might think.