With technology there’s a right way, and a wrong way. Your data backup plan, whether for your home or business, has to meet a minimum set of requirements in order to be effective. Skipping any of these requirements means your backup isn’t going to be effective when disaster strikes.
Backup your data offsite
You’ve probably heard this before, but its one of the most important aspects of a backup plan. Fire damage, water damage, and other environmental factors can ruin your computer – and if your backup device is also a victim you may not be able to recover your data. Also, the latest variants of “ransomware” (a type of virus that encrypts your files and asks you to pay a ransom) are specifically targeting backups in addition to your working data. If your USB hard drive is attached, or your backup is stored on the network – it can be susceptible to encryption. In that case, your only way to recover the files is to pay the ransom. Using cloud backup is a suitable and safe method for backing up your data offsite.
Keep multiple revisions of your files
Your backup should keep multiple revisions of files, so you can recover a previous version if your latest backup copy is corrupt or wrong. Sometimes, a mistake can be made but go unnoticed for weeks or even months. This is not only true for accounting applications, but also for engineering and design files. Being able to go back to an earlier revision rather than recreating everything from scratch can save many hours of work.
Backup your data at least once a day, or more
Most automated backup programs can be scheduled to run automatically, with options ranging from weekly, daily, or even hourly. Depending on the type and amount of information being changed, having more frequent backups makes sense.
Confirm your backups are completing successfully
Most backup applications have some notification ability, whether that’s an email or a message that pops up. Configure this to notify you on success or failure of the backup. Also, it’s a good idea to review the backup logs for any errors. Although the backup may say “successful”, it might be skipping files that are in use and not backing everything up.
Audit your backups to make sure you’re backing everything up
When your backup was initially configured, a list of directories to backup was selected. Over time, the locations or number of directories may change. For example, if you create folders in the “Documents” directory on your computer, and have been added more since you configured your backup, check to make sure they are included in the list of folders being backed up.
Test your backups by doing regular test restores
When a computer failure causes data loss, you don’t want to find out that your backups weren’t working correctly. Take the time to perform a test restore, and be thorough. If you use an accounting application, restore the latest backup and look to see if the data is current. Asking your IT provider for help is sometimes necessary, but is well worth the investment.
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Matt Rice is an Owner and Chief Technology Officer of Burgess Computer, a comprehensive IT support, managed service and network design firm located in Bath serving clients in southern, midcoast and central Maine. www.burgesscomputer.com