How to do a System Backups - By Rick Marmei

The Short of it:
-Read the risks section
-Get a program and a Drive (CD burner or Zip disk)
-Make a list of things to keep
-Back them up weekly, biweekly, monthly or yearly
-Prove to yourself that the backup does work
-Remove the backup from your harddrive and store put it somewhere safe

The Risks
These are not immediate threats but they may one day unexpectedly shock you!
-Data can be corrupted by you or your system
-Data can be accidentally deleted or overwritten
-Harddrive crash or Mechanical \ Electrical \ Software Failure
-Harddrive could be stolen
-There could be a fire, flood, etc.
-Malicious person could destroy or steal data (back them up)
-Malicious person could destroy or steal backup Files (remove them and password-protect them)
-Note if someone got that one backup file they could have your whole organizations information,
It should have a password and put be put in a secure place off the computer.

The Long of it:

Why do we need to back up information? The reasons aren't obvious until you loose some really important information. I handle Cad information and it is worth not just the cost of the data but the time involved in making it. $ per hour and weeks of work, it adds up at the end. If it is accidentally deleted or misplaced it is very difficult to replace. Some businesses have their entire organization information loaded on a couple of flimsy machines that can and will blink out at random and aren't backed up or tidy. What would happen if one day that information is gone (see risks)? They would be in a bind for months and work flow might just stop altogether. Personal information is important but not always imperative to keep.

Types of Programs

ZIP based backup programs are really good. They are reliable, they use easy-to-get technology and have a high compression ratio. They use the standard Zip program and can be compressed to different sizes. They are easy to open, have password protection, they keep the folder structure of your drive and are easy to check what is in the File too. I have tried countless types of systems and programs for this, and there is always a better way. Some systems are better than others and some compress the files better than others. But some are problematic, cumbersome and make files that are just plain large. Microsoft windows has one built in to their operating system but it has limited controls and it is difficult to view what is in it. I have also used Symantec Ghost which is good for big corporations and will restore whole machines if needed. I still like the zip programs some of which are quite inexpensive, if not free. They can handle large files even 600mb is no problem for them (I have made bigger files than that too).

Zip Based Backup Programs
- MOB is freeware and is very good (for Windows 2000)
- Fallback is freeware and is also very good (for Windows 98 and prior)

What you need to do:

- think about how much the information is worth to you
- Find a good program that can compress a lot of information.
- List the files and folders you cannot do without
- List the files you know you can do with out (to exclude)
- Set how often should you do the backup
- Back them up with compression (makes files smaller to fit more on a disk)
- Password protect the file for business or private info
- Take the backup off your system with a Zip disk, CD burner, Tape drive
- store the backup where it is safe (see risks)
- Test the backup (backup and then open it to a temporary folder to see if it worked)
- Keep the backup file list current (renaming directories as you work can throw off the backup system as it doesn't know were to look)

Files to backup:
A good rule of thumb is anything you cannot do without
-Email messages and addresses -Contact information
-Client / Customer work -inventory information
-Accounting Information -Advertising
-Personal letters -Photos
-Originals of advertising or WebPages -Regular transmittals
-Files that took a long time to make create -Web Book Marks and Passwords
-Personal info
-The backup program itself is really important, or a zip program

Things to think of when you are backing up:
- Backups are easier if all your backup files are under one or two directories. Then you just set the program to those files and let it run.
- How big should the archive be?
- Is there enough free space to handle the file. (This could cause a crash.)
- If the file is too big to fit on a zip disk, the file may be cut into pieces. Programs have multidisk spanning to split the archive.
- Back up before you move your system or make a big adjustment to it (simply banging your computer could jar the hard drive and shut it down permanently).
- Backing up the program itself it is really important. Or the alternative is to have a zip program on a separate disk. If you don't have the program when you need to restore your backup you. You would need to get it and this might be difficult. Although it may still be available on the Web

Things you shouldn't do
- Don't back up the whole system if you donít need to. Its sheer size may just stop your machine all together - Be selective, unless you are large organization and have unlimited hard drive space.
- Note that Graphics and MP3's don't usually compress at all. They are already very data heavy files. If you try it guarantied to be the same size as you started with. What worked best is to just to burn them right to a CD. One CD can hold 150 MP3s and can be played right off the CD.


Set up an archive to help your backup. Archiving is not backing up data. Archiving is storing data for future use. Where as backing data up is keeping a second copy incase something happens to the original. Archiving information helps you keep things you need in safe storage. This makes your backups smaller and keeps that information in a spot where it is not at risk. Archives on a disk on your shelf is easy to get at and is safer than on your harddrive. It is there when you need it and it isn't being backed up every week which increasing the size of the backup and valuable disk space too.

It also helps to have a really reliable system for this too. Verify the disks as the disks can be erased or misplaced too. It can be organized alphabetically by Directory title or by date and may take up several boxes of CDs.


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