Data Backup: Best Practices

The vast amount of information stored on computers today make them the most valuable possession most people own. Personal documents, business records, photographs, etc. are all entrusted in the care of personal computers. In the case of unforeseen circumstances such as theft, hardware failure, corruption, or natural disaster, most will admit that it is not the actual machine loss that causes pain, but instead the loss of the data contained on the machine. Data that could have been salvaged through regularly performed computer backups.

What Is Backup?

Computer backup is the process of storing reserve copies of computer files to a location that is external to the computer itself. The storage medium(s) used in backing up a computer’s files are based mostly on the amount of data projected to be stored, the frequency of the computer backups, and the location (local or remote) of the files being stored.

What Storage Mediums Are Used in Computer Backups?

For consumers, today’s storage mediums come in many forms such as external hard drives, DVD-R, flash drives, CD-R and on remote servers via the Internet. Choosing which solution is the right one for you depends on your storage needs. The file size and amount of data stored will more than likely guide your path. Those in areas where even the external storage medium is at high risk, may opt for an off-site server solution which will prevent local conditions from affecting the stored data.

How Do You Determine Which Files to Backup?

Prior to backing up data, determining which files are necessary to backup will maximize the storage space on the backup medium. In general, files that would be considered irreplaceable or irretrievable if the computer they are on ceased to exist should go to the backup medium. These include files such as digital photos, critical system files, timeless documents, address books, email messages, etc.. If all else fails, performing a backup of all files will insure that no important data was missed.

How Often Should Computer Backups Be Done?

The frequency of your computer backup depends on the importance of the files. Critical files should be sent to the storage medium immediately. On Windows based machines, files can be scheduled for automatic backup through the Windows Backup utility (Ntbackup.exe) and can be done daily or weekly in less than 10 minutes. Other operating systems may provide a similar service.
Computer backups that are performed consistently will help to ensure that data and files are available before, during, and after disaster strikes. The storage medium, frequency and files chosen for backup should be determined by those that must live with (or ultimately without) the data.

Other related articles:

Data Backup or Roll-Back Software?

Dealing with Data Loss.