Best Practices: Backup data

Daniel Monte -

Best Practices for backing up data

·         Separate your data from your applications. Ideally, you should save data files on a separate drive or partition. This will make protection easier in many ways, and it could save your bacon. For example, you can restore your system to a previous state without reversing your data to that point in time.

·         Save files to your U drive, or division share drives. U drives should be used for business related items that you use. Division share drives should be used for business related items that multiple people use in a division.

·         Purchase an USB 2.0 drive for your backups. It's a worthwhile investment that pays for itself with one system recovery. Dedicate the drive to backup; don't use it for anything else.

·         Identify what you absolutely can't afford to lose—mission critical data, financial information, and so on.

·         Do you have the installation CDs for all your software? If not, you need an image of your system and its dozens of applications.

·         Store a duplicate of your most crucial data off-site, using DVDs, an online service, or a second external drive.

·         If you encounter file problems, the most recent backup of that file may have the same problems. So don't be too quick to overwrite older backups.

·         As you learn the ropes, don't be afraid of mixing and matching for better protection. Multiple solutions, such as continuous backup and traditional backup, give you both quick recovery and long-term protection.

·         Storing backups on a separate partition of your hard drive (as Norton GoBack does) makes them easily accessible but won't protect you from a physical disaster. If you need this kind of protection, keep a system backup off-site, either online, on an external drive, or on optical media.

·         Note that most solutions can't restore individual e-mail messages, because they see your whole mailbox as a single file. (As a safeguard, make sure your e-mail accounts keep a copy of every message on the server.)

·         Typical consumer backup products don't save open files. So if you never close your mail file, or you keep a status-report spreadsheet open all the time, it may never get properly backed up.

·         Test restores often. We've heard too many horror stories of readers convinced that they were backing up properly only to find that nothing was actually written to the disk.

·         In some cases, files that are on a share drive may not be restorable. Every effort is made to back these files up, however, in unforeseen circumstances, files may still be lost. If a file is corrupt, the backup may be corrupt, the file may have been overwritten if too much time has passed, or other problems may arise.

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