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The importance of backing up (again!)

You will have heard people telling you to do it, in person and on the televison. You’ll have read, again and again, about how important it is to do it. You’ll probably have had alerts from your computer, particularly if running Windows, telling you to do it. What am I talking about? Of course, backing up. But if you are like most people, you probably ignore it and think “I know some people lose all their information in a computer crash but it’s rare and it’ll never happen to me” or “I’ll do it when I get the time”. You may even think that you have nothing important on your computer that is worth backing up.

I’ll address these one at a time:

– “It’ll never happen to me”: It will. I can say with almost certainty, at some time or another, your computer will irrecoverably crash. Storage devices, such as the hard drive in your computer or laptop, or USB drives, only last so long. It is impossible to say how long they will last but at some point, probably when it is least convenient, they will die on you. One day you’ll switch your computer on and, with no warning, it won’t boot. You’ll contact someone to help (maybe even the company called Firecrest Computing!) and they will tell you that your hard drive is damaged and there is a chance of recovering something from it, but not much. You may plug your USB drive in to your laptop, which holds the only copy of some very important documents for work, and the laptop doesn’t recognise it. If you haven’t backed up your data to somewhere else, all of your important data (documents, photos etc.) has gone.

– “I’ll do it when I get time”. See above. Hard drive/USB drive crashes can give you no warning at all so there may not be time to back-up quickly. How much value do you put on your data? As an example, a recent call was from someone who had got the CryptoWall 3.0 virus on their laptop, which held the only copy of their very important reports for work. CryptoWall 3.0 encrypts data that it finds on a computer and basically asks you to pay in order to decrypt the data (get it back). In this instance, I was able to recover (without paying the ransom) some of the data – but not all of it. (I will write another blog about CryptoWall soon, but if you do get it, do not pay any ransom, switch the laptop off and call me – there is a chance that I can get some of your data back if you do not use it in the meantime). If the client had a back-up of the important data on another drive, perhaps a USB drive, they could have recovered everything. They had no warning that they were going to get the virus and couldn’t have predicted it. There was no time to quickly back-up the data before it got encrypted.

– “I have nothing important”: Sometime this is genuinely the case, but a lot of time people forget exactly what they have stored on a computer and what they could lose. Family photos, documents downloaded and saved from email, etc. will all go if you have no back-up copy.

Therefore, it is boring and obvious, but the importance of backing up your data cannot be overstated. The key things with backing up are:

– Make it as easy as you can, otherwise you won’t do it. There are a number of (free) software programs that can help with this – I can help to set-up programs for you that can greatly ease backing up your important data. Operating systems, including Microsoft Windows, have automated backing up procedures which are fine – but the problem is that not everyone leaves their computer on 24/7 and by default they often set back-ups to run in the early hours. They can also be very confusing. Again, if you need help understanding anything, contact me and I can come and set it all up.

– Make it regular. There is no point doing it once a year for example, as if it crashes sometime during that year you have lost months of work/photos/documents.

– Backup to something external and keep the backup safe. In other words, not just to a folder on the same hard drive as your main computer. If the hard drive crashes, you’ll lose your back-up as well as the main copy of your data. There are also many ‘cloud’ providers that allow you to back-up to space on their servers, which is obviously external, but I’m largely dealing with backing up to your own external hard drive/USB drive/DVDs here but the same applies if you are backing up to the ‘Cloud’.

– Make sure that you back-up the important data. Some default settings for back-up programs miss places where people save their data – it is always worth checking that everything that you do not want to lose is being backed up.

I know you have read this many times before, and I’m probably not telling you anything new, but it is worth repeating again and again. I get frequent calls from people who have lose data that they really do not want to lose – sometimes it can be recovered, but depending on the damage, many times not and is is rare that everything can be recovered. Backing up can be a tedious, confusing process – if you are not sure about it or want help to make it easier, just contact me and I can come and help you to back everything up and show you how to do it regularly in the future. Just make sure that you do back-ups.

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