• It’s 9:00am and payroll has to be out by noon when you discover your hard drive has failed. Or maybe you emptied that recycle bin a bit prematurely. Perhaps you dropped your laptop while it was running or even worse your laptop or computer was stolen. Recent studies have shown that 50% of all hard drives will fail within 5 years. In addition, only 25% of us have an automated reliable backup. Another 25% have some sort of ad-hoc manual backup requiring a real person to intervene. The other 50% have nothing. So, if you do the math 35% of us are going to have a catastrophic disk failure in the next 5 years. It is estimated that 6% of all PCs will suffer an episode of data loss in any given year. The average cost of each data loss is estimated to be around $2,500. Whether you are a home user or small business the loss of data can be devastating. Hopefully you are not one of the 75% that do not have a reliable backup.

    What you need to perform backups:

    • An external storage device like an external hard drive or USB thumb drive. Whatever you choose it should be able to store all your data and then some on a single storage device.
    • You will also need backup scheduling software. Windows 10 includes 2 built in backup tools. There is the “File History” utility and the “Windows 7 Backup and Restore Tool”. In the Mac OS there is the “Time Machine” backup utility.
    • In order to provide an off-site backup which is highly recommended you will need some sort cloud service like Microsoft OneDrive, the iCloud, Google Drive, or even better a real backup service like Carbonite.

    Types of backups:

    • Full – backs up everything regardless of whether or not it was backup up before. Takes the longest to perform but provides the quickest restore.
    • Incremental – backs up all files created or modified since the last full backup or incremental backup. Takes the shortest to perform and the longest to restore from.
    • Differential – backs up all files created or modified since the last full backup. Time increases each day, shorter to perform and recover from than a full backup overall but longer than an incremental.

    What you must back up:

    • All User data folders including the Public user and including hidden folders such as your Desktop, Documents, Pictures, Downloads, Video, Music, AppData, etc…
    • Any data files belonging to database driven applications like QuickBooks, Quicken, or Outlook Desktop. These data files may or may not be in the standard User folders.

    What you do not need to back up:

    The software and OS that is installed on your computer that you have or can get the original installation program for. You can always recover by reinstalling the software including the operating system.

    Backup Strategies:

    When it comes to backup strategy all you need to remember is 3-2-1. This is the simplest strategy and in our opinion the minimum you need to be adequately backup your data. The 3-2-1 backup strategy translates into having 3 copies of your data where 2 copies are local or on-site and 1 copy is remote or off-site.

    Everyone has at least 1 local copy of their data which is the original copy on the device being backed up. The 2nd local copy would be on an external hard drive or thumb drive that you connect to your device and copy your data to using an automated backup software application. The 3rd copy or remote/off-site copy requires using a cloud service preferably a true cloud backup service like Carbonite or IDrive. Once you subscribe to such a service your data is automatically backed up to the cloud with the ability to restore data to the original device or any other device. These services are easy install and set up, provide secure encrypted backups even up to the minute as you work, and provide the ability to restore data with just a few clicks. If you could only have 1 backup of your data this is the one we would recommend.

    There are of course many other backup strategies with various degrees of complexity. For example, a common secure backup method called the “grandfather method” uses 20 backup sets, 4 sets for each day Monday – Thursday of every week, 4 sets for each Friday of the month, and 12 sets for each month.

    According to Murphy Law: Anything that can go wrong will go wrong. If there is a possibility of several things going wrong, the one that will cause the most damage will be the one to go wrong. Corollary: If there is a worse time for something to go wrong, it will happen then. Don’t let yourself or your business end up paying dearly for problems that can be easily prevented with a good backup system. Have a backup strategy and regularly verify the integrity of your backups.

    1 The Cost of Lost Data, by David M. Smith, Ph.D., Assistant Professor of Economics, Pepperdine University, September 1999.

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    Author Gregory Michaels is President of TekTrek Computer Services providing on-site computer services for home and business. For more information email info@tektrekcomputerservices.com or call 303-438-9365.