Oh %$*#$!!&#, I lost Data! How Not to Be There In Four Steps

My Biggest nightmare is losing my data.  You can lose not only business data but pictures, recipes, family treasures and all kinds of other things.  I’ve been lucky over the years, only losing a hard drive one time but that was enough to give me the nightmares.  And I was lucky enough to recover most of my files from the failing drive. (Really Lucky! We’ve seen customers’ drives fail so that absolutely no data could be recovered.)  Even though I’ve been a computer tech for twenty-five years, it’s hard to stay focused on a good data management plan. It’s come down to four things for me: 1) Organization of data, 2) direct back up of my documents, 3) a system image for my drive(s) and 4) redundancy.

It may be an anal retentive tech thing but think of your hard drive as a filing cabinet for your computer data.   Organizing your files will make your life much simpler. Not only will you be able to locate your documents more easily, this organization will help you plan a good backup system for yourself.  For example, the operating system has its own folder, a ‘Windows’ folder. There are also specific folders for things like users, program data, drivers and temporary files to name a few. But all you, the end user needs to think about are files in the ‘Library.’  These are the ‘My Documents,’ the ‘Pictures,’ the ‘Music’ and the ‘Videos’ folders. Consider that to be your own private filing cabinet. Set up folders in there for your main areas of interest. In My Documents, you can set up folders for things like recipes, travel, Household, taxes, family etc.  In pictures you can organize by date or by topic. Relax and spend a little time dragging files to these main folders. You may even want sub folders, an example being folders within your recipe folder for desserts, main courses, hors d’oevres, breakfast and so on. You can trust me that organizing like this really makes a difference.  As you save documents, save them to the proper sub folder, and if there isn’t one, create one as you are saving. Organize your picture, video and music folders in the same way. You can move and rename folders later if you don’t like the way something is setup. Go for it!

Not that you have an organized documents folder, it’s a simple thing to back up the whole folder to an external hard drive or to the cloud, if you prefer….  If you back this up regularly and lose your whole system, all the files and the organization scheme you have set up can easily be restored to a new or upgraded system.  Some will want to back this up daily, some weekly. This is going to depend on how often you add or update files and on whether you have critical information that would change your life if you lose anything.  People with home business would want a very regular and frequent backup schedule. I once knew a father who lost the first two years of their son’s pictures because the data drive crashed and wasn’t recoverable.  There are many free and paid options for backup software that will run on a schedule. Online backup systems have a monthly or yearly charge but back up frequently. If you’re not backing up, do it now!

Now you need to think about your programs and program data.  Programs that you purchased or downloaded and installed are not located in the Library.  You can’t just copy program files because they have files and info scattered over your drive – that’s how they function so accept it and move on!   For my peace of mind, I like to make a system image weekly. Windows has a built in backup program that will easily create a system image for you and let you set this up on an automatic schedule.  The dreamy thing about a system image file is that you can restore the image to a new drive and if all goes well, the computer will boot to that drive and look exactly like the old one, with all the programs, settings etc. that you had.  Even your favorite desktop background will be there! If you’ve ever had a system crash, you’ll know that it is irritating to say the least when the many setting you created to make your system perfect for you are no longer there. Things like your screensaver, font settings and internet browser settings will not be there, just to name a few.  You’ll need an external hard drive at least as big as your current drive, but typically they’re less than $100. What are you waiting for?!?

Now that you’ve done all this, the last step to data security is to have some redundancy in your backups.  Make two or three! It’s good to have at least two backup drives and to interchange them on a regular basis.  Label them A, B and C or Mary, Harvey and Twit! But each time you back up cycle the backup drives. Having a third lets you keep a backup of your data off site or in a fire and waterproof storage box.  For the extreme catastrophe that would make this important, you would be happy to have this updated every month or two!

I’m hoping you will take this seriously enough to set up your own backup program!  Remember, four things: Organize! Backup Files! Image your drive! And create multiple backups!   And of course, if you need help, feel free to call us at About-Face Computer Solutions for some assistance or training.

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