Please, Please do a backup

That sinking feeling just after pressing the ‘Enter’ key, when you know deep down that the folder you just deleted contained all your holiday/wedding photos in a subfolder. Worse, despite all the warnings, you haven’t done a backup.

Backup Key

Let’s face it, backups come quite low on the importance list of computer housekeeping. Somewhere between cleaning the fan and cleaning out your old emails.

There’s no revenue generation in backups and it’s easy to find something more important to do. Facebook, news, weather, even next year’s holiday seems to be more pressing than buying a USB drive and copying your most important documents to a separate drive. That is, of course, until disaster strikes.

Data recovery

I often get asked ‘can you un-delete it?’, to which the answer is not always clear-cut. Most of the time we can recover data but the inconvenience and cost far exceed the effort required to safeguard your data in the first place. If you have deleted something by mistake, the un-delete process relies on minimal data being written to the disk after the event, meaning stop what you are doing, leave the computer running, and perform the recovery as soon as possible.

I was recently called to a ransom-ware virus case where the client had his entire documents for personal and business encrypted. We were able to recover over 95% of his files without paying the ransom but he hadn’t slept for 2 days and his view of backup importance has changed permanently.

There is also the hardware failure scenario for which data recovery is very difficult but not impossible. We now come to a tipping point of recovery cost vs data value. If your hard disk has failed physically it will need a specialist recovery company to rebuild the disk which doesn’t come cheap. Keep an eye out for the signs of noisy hard drives or corruptions on the disk which might be an indicator that something is starting to go wrong.

Which backup type

The backup specifics can be quite daunting with the different types of backup, and now Windows 10 introducing file version history. Then we need to decide which media and where the files are to be stored like a NAS, USB drive or the cloud. You can keep it simple and just copy all your files from either ‘My Documents’ or your Windows profile onto a USB hard drive that you could pick up from Officeworks for around $60. This is the simple method. It’s not a scheduled backup each week, and you may miss some files that could be useful but it’s better than doing nothing should the worst happen.

Once you have a copy of your files saved somewhere other than the computer drive itself, you now have some insurance. Well done. Don’t stop there, the next step of setting up something more regular and automated isn’t that hard. Windows has a built in backup system with a wizard that steps you through the process. Many of the USB drives now come with free backup software on the actual drive or you can download a free program like Aomi or EaseUS both of which offer much more features than a simple backup, that will help create a schedule of what and when to backup.

Where to put your backups?

Having a copy of your files is great, but that last place you want to keep them is on the computer you have just backed up. If the disk fails, or you encounter a virus which wipes your drive, it’s all gone. You need to move your backup to an external disk, or somewhere outside of the office / home. Ideally both. Imagine you keep your USB drive on a desk next to your laptop at home and you were burgled. The likelihood of someone stealing your laptop and backup disk are quite high and there’s nothing anyone can do to recover that data loss. That’s where the cloud comes in.

Cloud storage

Your secure, offsite storage from Google, OneDrive, Dropbox, Amazon or a multitude of other offerings should be your last bastion of data storage. The sign up process is quick and easy and getting cheaper each year if you need to purchase space. Use the storage space wisely and you may never need to pay for storage at all. Don’t backup items which can be obtained again elsewhere. Videos, music, IMAP emails and many programs are available to download again from the source. This will keep your storage requirements minimal and a little planning can help spread the load across different cloud storage pools.

One last point to finalise this process. At least annually, try and restore the data. This will confirm your data integrity and keep you familiar with the restore steps should you need to invoke a recovery under stress. If the above seems too daunting or you simply don’t have time, give us a call. We see too many customers chewing fingernails and panicking about those lost memories so we can’t stress enough – please, please do a backup.