Belt And Suspenders Backup

The world is a harsh place. Nothing physical ever lasts forever and that is especially true for computer equipment. However, just because your computer crashes does not mean your data has to die with it. Digital data can live forever. You can copy it.

In order to make a backup, you must know where your data is stored. A long time ago I learned that it was impractical to backup workstations so I don't even try. Keeping important data on a server works better and makes backup possible.

Belt and suspenders

Even with uninterruptible power and redundant disks, you could still lose valuable data someday. You better have the protection that comes from using multiple layers of backup.

About 16% of companies have lost data in the past six months. Every year I get at least one phone call from a business with a crashed server. Think it won't happen to you? Today I went to re-order laser checks and found that the biggest check printing company in the United States of America had this to say:

Attention Deluxe Business Forms Customers. We are working hard to continually improve your shopping experience. Unfortunately, at this time, your previous account log in information and order histories from Deluxe Business Forms is not supported. Please accept our apologies and take a moment to create your new account now. By creating your new account you will be able to have order history, account history, store your content for future purchases along with other features. Thank you for your patience!

Sounds like somebody didn't have good backup.

Backup deserves management attention because your data is so valuable. This article explains backup concepts so you will no longer be baffled by the process. Here are three backup concepts:

a)Storing data on a server works best because protecting one server is much easier than trying to backup a bunch of workstations.

b) For a small business overnight backup usually provides reasonable protection. Just make sure somebody takes home a backup copy once in a while in case of theft, fire, or flood.

c) Belt and suspenders backup means you are using two independent backup systems. If your overnight backup uses a USB flash drive and your monthly backup uses a DVD optical drive, then you have belt and suspenders backup. Now you can sleep better at night. knowing that your treasure is protected.

What Is Your Treasure?

Your treasure is your typing. NOT the programs. The thing that you need to backup is the hours and hours of labor that it takes to create database and word processing documents. Storage managment is a fancy term for "keeping your room clean" and means don't store Lord of The Rings or other junk on the server.

What value would you place on your database? My typical Giant customer has ten or more years of information stored and that data is worth far more than all the computers (even when the equipment is worth tens of thousands of dollars).

Remember, a computer tech can always re-install Windows and the associated programs. There are millions of copies of Microsoft Windows in the world. However, nobody but you has a copy of your typing. Don't even try to backup everything because it takes too long. Just make sure you BACKUP YOUR DATA.

Where Is Your Treasure?

A server computer is a nice reliable place to store data and using a server has another big advantage. When it comes to backup, you know that all your data is in one place. It's in the server data area. That makes backup much easier.

Management tends to cringe when I say that workstations are disposable, like Kleenex, but it's true. You know that workstations come and go. If you store your data on workstations then your data comes and goes too. Yikes.

People who keep data on workstations might promise they will do their own backup but that is both unlikely and unmanageable. By the way, if you think everything is in My Documents do you realize that each Windows computer has more than one area called My Documents?

Making a good backup of the server is hard enough. Don't multiply the problem by trying to backup all those workstations too.

How Much Treasure Do You Have?

A megabyte is enough storage to hold one paperback book of about 120 pages of text. A gigabyte represents about one thousand paperback books. How many gigabytes in size is your treasured data? Probably just one or two gigabytes.

If you tried to backup all the Windows programs, it would be over twenty gigabytes and take all afternoon. A Giant customer might have a hundred thousand documents and still need only a couple gigabytes of storage. If you limit backup to data only then it's easy to make a copy everyday and store it all on a single USB flash drive or DVD disk.

Don't Drop Your Treasure

One reason that servers are more reliable than workstations is that nobody ever touches the server - a server might not even have a keyboard. You can backup server data from the workstation that sits right in front of you. That's what I do.

Twenty five dollars gets you a USB flash drive that can store about 16 gigabytes of data. Any decent computer tech can setup commands and a desktop icon to automatically copy your data to a USB flash drive and then shutdown your computer. Here are samples of the backup commands required:

XCOPY S:\*.* F:\*.* /E /C

Notice that nothing fancy is needed, just one copy command and one shutdown command. Everyday at 5PM plug in a USB flash drive, click on the icon, and go home. That takes care of your daily backup.

Another twenty dollars gets you a hundred pack of DVD disks that each hold about 4 gigabytes of data. Ask the same computer tech that sets up your daily backup icon to show you how to burn DVD disks. Take notes as the procedure is different depending on what DVD burning software is used. Burn one disk each week and take it home. After a while you will have a snapshot in time with one disk for each week of the year. An off-site snapshot can save your butt.

Cloud backup is good too - just don't make it your primary backup. You can't hold a cloud backup copy in your hand and that means the data is not under your direct control. Pumping data thru an internet connection is always going to be much slower than accessing a local device. That makes it impractical for a simple "transfer everything" approach. I've found that many who use a cloud backup have turned the responsibility over to a 3rd party and lost the ability to restore their own data.

Can You Restore Your Treasure

Former president Ronald Regan said "Trust but verify". Once or twice a year you should verify that your backup media actually contains your data. One customer lost their database then discovered that the person doing backup copied the desktop icons and not data. Oops.

The best way to verify is using your home computer. Just insert the USB flash drive or DVD and wait for a box to pop-up. Then look around to see that your files have actually been stored successfully on the backup. With this final step your confidence level will increase.

Backup your treasure and be as good as gold!