Why Data Backup And Recovery Are Necessary
You’ve probably created or edited hundreds of files on your computer—maybe even thousands of files. From documents to photos to emails to everything else. Without good data backup and recovery, all of these files could be gone in a heartbeat.
Imagine losing all of your email conversations, all of your precious photos, and all of the documents and spreadsheets you’ve put hundreds of hours into perfecting. Some of these things can’t ever be recreated. Some of them take longer to recreate then you would think—I once had to rekey 5 years of personal accounting data after losing my main accounting file. It took months of part time work.
Sometimes when a disk drive crashes, you can use special techniques to recover some or all of the data. You can try freezing your hard drive to fix your failed hard disk or you can send it to a data recovery specialist. But these techniques aren’t guaranteed to work. Good data backup and recovery is guaranteed—you guarantee it yourself.
Backups: The First Step Of Data Backup And Recovery
Making a good backup is the most difficult part of building a good data backup and recovery system. But once you get down to it, it isn’t that hard. There are five steps you want to follow:
- Find a backup solution. We’ll discuss several in the next section.
- Make your first backup.
- Look for important files you missed.
- Backup any missing files.
- Repeat steps three and four until you’re sure you’ve backed up all of your files.
Choosing A Good Data Backup And Recovery Solution
There are two popular types of backup and recovery solutions in wide use today. The first has a high start-up cost but practically zero continuing costs; the second has a single monthly fee (which starts at $0).
The first data backup and recovery solution is to use the Windows Backup Wizard in Windows Vista and Windows 7 or the Windows XP Backup and restore wizard. For this solution, you need an external disk drive on USB, eSATA, or a network share. Using the Wizard is easy: plug in your external disk drive if necessary, go to the Control Panel, launch the System and Maintenance menu, and choose Windows Backup Wizard. Use the wizard to choose which files to backup and tell it to back them up to your external disk drive. You can also schedule regular backups.
The second data backup and recovery solution is to make backups over the Internet to a service like Dropbox or Mozy for online backup. Both services offer 2 GB of backup for free, but if you need more space than that, Mozy’s rates are currently much lower than Dropbox’s rates. Both use the same basic method: you install their software and select the files you want to backup. (In Dropbox, you select the files by putting them in your Dropbox folder; in Mozy, you select files in the Mozy Backup Manager.) Both programs automatically backup the files for you every time they change, so you don’t need to schedule any further backups.
I have mentioned 5 types of computer backup storage previously which includes both the above mentioned.
Finding Files For Data Backup And Recovery
One of the trickiest parts of data backup and recovery is choosing which files to backup. Remember that after your hard drive crashes, you won’t be able to change you mind about which files you backed up—you’ll have to live with whatever you choose. I find that the best way to choose important files for backup is to only use files that are backed up. Here’s how to do it:
Create a folder called “Safe” on your desktop or in your Documents directory. (Dropbox users should use the Dropbox directory.) In the Windows Backup Wizard or Mozy, backup everything in this folder and all subdirectories. Now tell yourself not to open any documents, pictures, music, or anything else that isn’t in this folder. If it’s not in that folder, it’s not backed up, so you’ll eventually lose it—so why not start acting like you’ve lost it already?
The only flaw in this system is that some programs keep their files separate—for example, your email program probably doesn’t keep your emails in My Documents. So now you need to tell yourself not to open any program with files you haven’t backed up. An easy way to tell which programs are safe to use is to rename them slightly. For example, after you backup your email in, say, Microsoft Outlook, rename it to “_Microsoft Outlook”. You’ll now know that any programs starting with “_” are safe to use.
As you learn to open only files and programs that are in your data backup and recovery system, you’ll find lots and lots of data that you might have missed. Just keep backing up your data until you’re sure you’ve got all of it.
Recovery: The Second Step Of Data Backup And Recovery
It’s not enough just to make backups—you’ve also got to test that your backups are working, otherwise you could end up paying hundreds or thousands of dollars for a data backup and recovery system that doesn’t help you when your disk drive fails. You’ll have lost all of that money and all of your files.
Testing your data backup and recovery system should be easy. You can test the system on your current computer, but I highly recommend that you try testing it on another computer if possible—if your disk drive crashes, you’re going to need to reinstall Windows, so any true recovery will look like it’s happening on a new computer. Here are the steps to follow:
Go to a different computer and create a new user account. (I usually call it Test or Testing.) Then use the Windows Restore Wizard, Dropbox, or Mozy to try to recover one or two random files. It doesn’t matter which files you restore—you just want to make sure they restore correctly. If your data backup and recovery system restores the files correctly—great! If not, that’s great too because now you have the chance to fix your data backup and recovery system before it’s too late.