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by Jason Whong
How to back up your data
Read this article. It could be one of the most enlightening things
you've ever read. It's about making backup copies, and how to do it
Why should you back up your data? Not just because it is the right thing
to do; it's the practical thing to do.
Consider this - most of NASA's spacecraft had 2 of every important system
installed, so that if the primary system failed, they'd be able switch to
the secondary system without having to abort their mission. Most of the
times, these secondaty systems aren't used at all, but they are still
critical, and astrnauts won't fly without that kind of assurance.
NASA kept redundant electronics systems in reserve! Luckily, you
probably don't have to do that in order to protect yourself and your
productivity. But you should probably keep redundant copies of your data
Making a backup of your data is very practical, because hard drives are
mechanical, and they are destined to failure at some point.
Additionally, a bad crash can cause problems on your disk, which are not
easy to repair.
Imagine how you'll feel when 30 seconds before that paper is due, smoke
comes out of your computer, and it emanates the sounds of squealing pigs.
Can you imagine what your teacher or boss would say when you had to hand
So, take some steps to avoid the nightmare.
A little story about backing up
Some people think that if they make a single backup, they're set for
life. Wrong-o. I knew a woman once who paid someone to make backups of
her IBM clone. He came in and copied a bunch of files to her disk. She
figured she had done the right thing.
When her database was corrupted, she was unpleasantly surprised. She
called me and asked me to restore the backups. I looked at her disks -
some were unlabeled, some were unprotected, and I didn't have the
slightest idea of where to begin.
The backups were two years old, and the man who had made them was
unreachable. All of her company's data was on that machine, and it was
gone. And there was a pile of ancient disks, which she called a "backup."
The dirty little secret of backing up is the fact that a backup can only
be considered a backup if you know how to get your data from it when you
The more obvious secret of backing up is that you have to do it more than
once. Even if I had managed to restore all of the data from her backup,
it would have been two years old. It was completely useless for her.
Good backup strategy
If you want to back up your data, but aren't sure where to start, here
are a few tips:
I guess that's all I have to say for now. Drink milk, and eat lots of celery.
- Make backups of your data. That is, make copies of things that you
made yourself; things that are irreplacable. You can never have enough
of these. Don't waste your time or media by making backups of things you
can easily replace, like programs. You can always install these from
your original CD.
- Choose a backup method that works for you. If that means you have
to buy a commercial product like Dantz Retrospect, do it. If it means
you use drag and drop to make copies of folders, do that. As long as you
know what you are doing.
- The first time you make a backup, try restoring your data from the
backup. If you don't, you run the risk of not knowing how to get at your
data when you need it.
- Consider keeping multiple backups. One place I worked at kept 4
weeks' worth of weekly backups. To do this, they used a different tape
each week, and kept each of the tapes in rotation. That way, if someone
accidentally deleted something that was still OK the week before, he or
she could ask someone to restore it.
- Consider keeping quarterly backups. The same place I used to work at
kept a backup from each quarter, and it came in handy on multiple
- Be aware of the media you use for backing up. That means knowing how
durable they are, what temperatures they should be stored in, and other
important care instructions. Keep in mind that some of the same things
that can hose your computer can also hose your backups.
- Speaking of getting hosed, it's not always the fire that destroys
your data - it's the water that they use to put out the fire that'll
really get ya. Make multiple backups and keep one offsite somewhere,
preferably in a fireproof, waterproof, bulletproof, and idiotproof
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