I’m sure you all have heard that people lose data. This could occur for a number of reasons:
- You are typing a document and accidentally hit the wrong key. Oops–you’ve erased the thing you have been working on.
- You go to start up your computer in the morning and you get a message such as “no boot device”. Oops–your hard drive is no longer being seen by the computer.
- You sit down at your computer one day and try to open a document. What you get instead is a notice that your document has been encrypted and you need to pay $500 to get the decryption key.
- You open your word processing program (or graphics editing program) and try to find your documents or pictures. You find that the directories are empty.
- You come home after being out to dinner and find that someone has broken into your house and your computer is missing.
- You have kids or grandkids visiting and they ask to use the computer. When you again sit down to do some work, you have absolutely no idea it’s your computer. Everything is changed and your stuff is nowhere to be found.
- You have kids, grandkids, siblings, etc. visit you and offer to “help” you with your computer because it’s “too slow”. So they work on it and “fix” it for you. Now nothing works.
- There is a storm, fire, flood, or other disaster that destroys your office.
Sound familiar? Yep–it can happen to you.
In the last post, I described what can happen to you when you least expect it. We will now examine some things you can do to prevent the loss of your data (whether it be important legal documents, recipes for your favorite wine, or pictures of your family).
Back up your data–your first line of defense
- A simple backup can consist of you copying your data to some form of external media. This can be a CD, DVD, flash drive, or USB hard drive. In the case of a USB hard drives, many come with a backup program already installed. The backup should be done on a regular basis. Oh, yes–remember that your backup needs to be stored somewhere other than next to your computer! An offsite storage is preferable.
- Once you have your data covered, you need to think about your system as a whole. Unless you have a system disk, in the case of a hard drive failure, you will not be able to reinstall Windows. Many computers nowadays have a provision to make system recovery DVD’s. You need to do that. But that will only guarantee you can put the system back to the way it was when it was new. Your programs and data are not covered here.
- You may have a recovery DVD or flash drive either provided by your manufacturer or maybe you made one yourself when you set up the computer. This will restore the computer to like-new condition, but you will still have to reinstall all your programs (apps in Win 10!), and restore your backed up data to allow you to continue with life. But at a cost–time! This whole process takes a bit of time to do it right. Measured in hours.
- A system image is a really good tool. It is a “picture” of your hard drive as it is now. The operating system, the programs, and the data. If you have a recent system image and you experience a hard drive failure, all you need to do is replace the drive, run the recovery program which restores the system image and you’re good to go. Simple.
Now you know what can happen. You also have an idea of what to do. But what do you need to do the job?
- A backup device. Use a flash drive (careful–these are easy to lose) large enough to hold your data. An external USB drive is a better choice.
- A backup program. As previously stated, if you buy an external USB hard drive (at least 1T in size), it may have a backup program on it. You will need to install that program on your computer. If you don’t want to use the program they provide, there are any number of programs out there–both free and paid versions–that will do the job.
- An imaging program. This is the program that is capable of making a system image and then restoring it to a hard drive. We use Acronis True Image in our business.
- A cloud backup solution. This is also a good idea if you have data you need to access even in the event of some type of disaster. Online data is usually available from any device using your logon credentials. We use Carbonite here. We are also Carbonite resellers for those of you wishing to buy it through us. A premium version of Carbonite will even store an image of your system to save you the trouble of making and updating one.
- Lacking a cloud backup, you need a place to store your data once it’s backed up. If you have a business office, store the data at home. If you have a home office, you could possibly store the data in a safe deposit box. Possibly a fireproof safe. Or maybe in a relative’s home. Anywhere but next to your computer!
Need help with all of this? Give us a call.
Now that you have read my recommendations for keeping your data save, you need to be aware of what can go wrong. Otherwise you will be calling me and asking why you weren’t warned!
- When backing up your stuff, it is best to disconnect the backup device when you are not actually using it. Should you become infected by a ransomware program, it will affect all connected devices. It will, therefore, corrupt your backup if it can get to it.
- If burning a CD or DVD, be sure to verify the process. Also, with any backup system, occasionally look at the backup and see if the computer is actually backing up your data. It does you absolutely no good to tell me you have your data backed up and when I go to look for it I find that your backups have not actually been working!
- Remember to store CD’s, DVD’s, and flash drives in a save place. Don’t lay them in the sun or put them somewhere where they will be subject to extremes in temperature.
- If using a cloud backup system, ask the company how many backups they store. For instance, in the case of ransomware, the corrupt files will be backed up to the cloud and will be useless. If the company has several offline backups (Carbonite assures me that this is how they operate) then they can put one of good copies online for you to restore your data.