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Yes, Mistakes Happen, so you need Backup!

And fires and thefts happen too.

Backup - You want protection from:

  1. Fire, theft, hard drive failure. So, what if somebody steals your computer after you leave the office or home tonight? Or the harddrive won't start up tomorrow? Or a fire wipes out your building?
  2. Virus infects your system, spoiling data at some point in the past. In many accounting and database systems, you can save a record, then not look at it for a long time.
  3. Somebody makes a boo boo. You (but this is usually me, not you!) do something stupid (ok, maybe a bit poorly thought out) and recognize it almost immediately, surely before the end of the day.

A backup solution should addresses these dangers by including these procedures:

  1. Backup all the data - that's the stuff you and I create, not the programs themselves from Microsoft, Quicken, Apple.
    1. Put all of your data in a place like "My Documents", on a hard drive separate from your operating system, and so forth. Use directories and folders to separate your projects within that area.
    2. You don't want to save your files in with theirs. Quicken and Microsoft programs sometimes have as the default save location, the directory where their programs are - don't accept that location - save your data in the "My Documents" area, or a subdirectory of that location.
    3. Make sure that you save periodically special files for each application. For Microsoft Word, these are the templates, most importantly the file.
  2. Don't backup the megabytes of programs from Microsoft, Quicken, etc. This applies to small businesses and home users. Corporations will invest in faster backup medium. If you need to restore, you will use the original CD's to reinstall the applications.
  3. Backup frequently - daily, or, if you don't create much, at least often enough so you won't loose too much if you haven't backed up for a week, a month or longer. Remember, if you don't make changes in your data very often, it will be harder to remember what you did change, so backup after making changes.
  4. Save those backups for a long time - at least one or two sets should be at least a year old.
  5. Don't trust the backup system unless you have re-stored from the tape, disks or cd-ROM both a complete set of all the saved files or a single file. At one client site, it took a full day of their best technical person to restore one file. You can configure the software to put the file back in the exact same place from where it was backed up, or place it in a new area. Unless you are performing a full restore, you will want to put it in a separate place - maybe on drive D, rather than C:, for instance.
  6. Move some of those backups off-site. One of my clients had their entire computer system stolen on a Friday night, including the boxes of disks on the shelves above the computers (!), but were saved because every day they shut down the system at 4:30 pm, perform a complete system backup and the office manager sticks the tape in her purse as she walks out the door.
  7. Make interim backups, much like Microsoft Word's "Autorecover" option to make a hidden backup ever 10 minutes. Or, before I perform an operation that affects a lot of data, I make a "hot" backup by copying data to from the local hard drive to the server, or the other way. Then, I make my changes.
  8. Backup before you start a major data modification procedure. Accounting procedures mean we "close" a previous period such as a month, quarter or year. To do this, we run all sorts of report, making sure the money flow has been properly recorded and make adjusting entries and adding explanatory notes. The we "close" by running a process to move data from the current period into history and reset totals for the next period. Even though we want a clean snapshot of the system after the close, a backup should be performed before starting the process to protect your data from problems hardware or software failure during the closing operation..
  9. Save individual's data in a place that protects the data and any needed privacy. Don't let individuals save only their local hard drives and not to the network where there (presumably) is a system backup procedure in place. Or, invest in the (expensive) technology to backup the individual workstations. Use password protection and other system security features if privacy is a concern, but don't let these issues override the organization's need to recover in case of theft and other disasters.

Oops! I'd better back this up...

Tell me ( )  if this page is helpful, what was confusing and so forth.

If you are a client or a friend and I directed you to this page, your part of the process of receiving help is to understand the issues I raise here and to ask for further clarification.

My part of the process is to create the procedures and clarify further if needed.

Craig Roberts, or 651-257-0786.

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