When was the last time you baced up the data on your computer? For many the answer to that question will be "never" or "don't know" or perhaps even "what's a backup?".

For those who don't know what a backup is, it is a copy of the data from your computer that can be used if something happens to the original. There are a number of reasons why you might need a backup and different types of backup that are needed to cater for those needs.

So backups are useful. Many people don't realise this though until they actually have a situation where they lose data through not having a backup. By reading this you don't have to wait until you suffer a loss before taking the steps to make sure it doesn't happen again. You can start taking backups now and so ensure that the chances of ever losing data are kept to a minimum.

The simplest backups are where you keep multiple copies of your files on the same drive of the same computer.When you do this you have copies that you can use to restore a file if you stuff up the update. You can start again rather than wasting time trying to recreate what was there before. This type of backup doesn't help though if you need to reformat the drive, the drive fails, or the computer gets stolen.

A better option is to back up to separate media - another hard drive if you have one or to DVD or other external media. If the drive or media can be separated from the computer once the backup has been made then that is even better since if you can store the media at a completely different location then you will still have your data even if your house burns down.

So how often should you back up and how many backup copies should you keep? The answer to that depends on how much data you can afford to lose. If you can't afford to lose any data then you need to back up every time something changes. If redoing a weeks worth of input is acceptable then a weekly backup may be all that you need. Of course since there is a slight possibility that the last backup may also fail you need to keep prior backups as well. If you are using write once media such as burning to DVDs then you can of course keep all the backups. If you are overwriting prior backups then you need to keep at least three copies so that if the current backup fails that you have a reasonable likelihood of being able to recover from one of the prior two.

What to back up? You need to back up your own data. You should be able to reinstall the operating system and your applications from the original media you purchased them on if necessary and so you do not necessarily need to back up those files. You may want to include the install files you downloaded from the internet with your data in the backup so as to not need to download them again. Much of what you need to back up from a typical Windows computer will be in your "My Documents" folder. The main folder other than that you will definitely need to consider backing up is the one that holds your emails (what that is called depends on which email program you are using).

The best way to do your backups is to use actual backup software that automates the backup process for you. That way the backups run automatically at the desired frequency and you will not need to convern yourself with the backups at all once set up apart from changing the media as required.

So how often do I back up my data? Well I have software running on the computer that automatically saves a backup copy of any changed data file to a separate computer and which keeps the last three versions there. That second computer is backed up twice weekly to external media. When one of my hard drives failed just five weeks after I purchased it with oner 1300Gb of data on it I was able to get the store to replace the drive and because the same data was also stored on other drives I was able to easily reload the data back onto the drive from those other sources.


This article written by Stephen Chapman, Felgall Pty Ltd.

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