Back It Up! Keeping Data Safe on Your Home Computer

Backing Up Data: Explore Your Options

  • Floppy Disc: Floppies are rarely used anymore: the discs are unreliable, have minimal storage capacity, and newer computers no longer have floppy drives for reading such discs. Having said that, if they're all you have, take advantage of them. \t\t

  • CD, DVD: These are safe, take up very little space, and are portable. This \t\t\tbackup solution is considered best for most home computer users. What's \t\t\tmore, you can buy rewritable discs and reuse them as you save new data, \t\t\tthus cutting back on the amount of plastic you use. \t\t

  • Zip Disc: These can fail without warning and, with the advent of DVDs \t\t\tand CDs, are no longer commonly used, so you're better off making the \t\t\tjump to a different form of data storage. Note: "Zip" is a brand name, but \t\thas become the generic term for these "superfloppy" disc storage units. \t\t

  • Data Storage Software: Many newer model computers come outfitted \t\t\twith backup software. What the software won't do, of course, is \t\t\t\tprotect your data should something happen to the computer itself (e.g., \t\t\ttheft, fire, water damage). For this reason, you should also back up your \t\t\tdata to an offsite location (i.e., off and away from your computer). \t\t

    If you want to run scheduled backups or have critical data to back up, you \t\t\tmight want to look at specialized backup software. Some of the more \t\t\tpopular choices are Retrospect by EMC2 Danz (www.dantz.com), \t\t\t\tdesigned for individual users (both PCs and Macs); \tand \t\t\t\t\tYosemite Backup Desktop PC Desktop (Visit \t\t\t\t\t\tyosemitetech.com and click on "Backup Desktop").

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  • Internet-Based Storage: These services keep your data safe from \t\t\t\tdisasters that might strike data stored near your computer (e.g., fi re, \t\t\tearthquake) and they're automated, so you can set them to store data \t\t\tautomatically. \tNote that your computer must be on and connected to the \t\t\tInternet while backing up data. Moreover, for an online service to be \t\t\teffective, you should have a high-speed Internet connection; without it, \t\t\tbacking up time is multiplied exponentially. \t\t

    Smart Computing Magazine (April, 2005) offers the following backup \t\t\tsoftware options: Data Deposit Box (www.datadepositbox.com), BackUp \t\t\tSolutions (www.backupsolutions.com), and Professional Offsite Data \t\t\tBackup (www.backmeupoffsite.net).

Now To Safeguard the Backups \tThe physical safety of your backed-up data must now be ensured. To that end, you might want to store your CDs, DVDs, or floppy discs in a safe deposit box, a home safe, or some other invulnerable location.

Data Storage: It's Not Just for Word Docs Anymore \tThere's information on your computer other than documents that you might want to protect: your email address book, for instance, or the emails themselves; and what about your Web site bookmarks? IT Express has developed a how-to guide for taking care of just these items. Visit email.ucdavis.edu/backup for directions.

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As for your software programs (e.g., Microsoft Word, Adobe Acrobat), you should make sure you have the original installation discs and licensing keys (i.e., the serial numbers for these discs) in a handy location. In the event that something happens to the programs on your computer, or should you buy a new computer and want to use those old programs, you'll have them close at hand and ready to re/install.

How Often Should I Back Up My Data? \tIt varies: if you work with sensitive data, back up as often as nightly, but at least weekly. Less critical information can be backed up monthly.

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Hint: if you're backing up your data manually (as opposed to automatically, as with an online service), link the task to some other regular event, such as payday or a regularly scheduled meeting; that way you'll be far more likely to stick with your new backup habit.

Is That It? Well, Nearly... \tGet out your data backup device from time to time and check to see that it actually works. This way, when you actually need the data, you know it will be there for you, and this New Year will be a happy one.

What About My Office Computer? \tThe IT support staff for your department or unit should have in place a backup system for all computers under their supervision. If you're not sure who your IT support staff is, call IT Express at 530-754-HELP to find out.