It continually amazes me how many computer users, especially in the legal community, do not take the appropriate efforts to backup their data. It seems that almost every week at the law school someone’s hard drive crashes, and–lo and behold–they did not backup their data (or their latest backup is two months old).
To be fair, I also used to be in this camp. I burned my files to CD every few months, thinking that I was safeguarding my valuable information. Nothing could be further from the truth.
This article will outline the key steps in having a reliable backup system. By its end, you should have the tools and knowledge necessary to protect your valuable data, whether that is class notes or client information.
What Do You Need?
The primary components of a backup system are simple. Moreover, you can obtain everything for FREE. Here is what you need:
- Data to backup
- Location to store backup
- Backup software
What to Backup?
Simply put, backup everything you do not want to lose. If it is not easily replaceable, back it up. If it is valuable, back it up. If it would take time to redo it, back it up.
To simplify the process, I suggest you get in the habit of storing all of your files in a single location (such as “My Documents”). This allows you to backup one directory and get everything that you need to backup. Easy, right?
Where to Backup the Data?
Ideally, everyone should have two separate backup locations. Typically, robust systems have data backed up somewhere on-site, as well as backing up data to an off-site location. This provides three copies of data, in case one is corrupted or becomes unavailable.
Most home and home office users probably do not need a backup system this robust. If you are a law student or simply backing up some home office files, one backup location (preferrably off-site) is probably enough. However, if you are backing up your solo firm’s data, strongly consider having two backup locations.
An easy on-site location to backup your data is on another computer on your network. If doing this, make sure the other hard drive has plenty of free space. Also, make sure you either have a wired network or that your wireless connection is encrypted. If you have the sole computer around, consider purchasing an external hard drive, which you can pick up online or at a store like Best Buy or Office Depot.
As for off-site backups, there are many sources of free online storage. Also, most internet providers give out a certain amount of free web space with each account. Finally, many universities (and law schools) give free storage space to their students. This step is simply a matter of looking into what sources are available to you and finding one that works (and has enough space). If worst comes to worst, you might have to pay $5/month to get some online hosting space from a company. Isn’t your data worth $5 a month?
What Software to Use?
The best software I have personally found for backups is SyncBack. It provides a very easy, but thorough interface to allow you to backup any number of files and directories to several different sources. It can handle different locations on the network, FTP locations, CD backups, etc. It also has an included scheduler so you can have backups processed automatically, without thinking about them.
Wait, did I forget to mention that SyncBack is FREE?! Well, you have to get the freeware version (which is at the bottom right of the link above). I have used the free version for a while now, and I have never found anything I wanted to do that it could not handle.
How Often to Backup?
The last point in this backup primer is how often you should backup your data. The best question to ask yourself is “How much data am I willing to lose?” I would suggest that everyone backup at least once per week. If you are an active computer user and make modifications to documents daily, I would suggest backing up every day. Just remember: data that isn’t backed up is waiting to be lost.
If you have read this far, you’re already on your way to having a robust backup system. Be sure to remember: if it’s TOO important TO lose, be sure TO have TWO copies!
Finally, if you have any ideas or suggestions for a good backup system, I would love to hear them. Also, if you have questions regarding this article, or anything else on this site, please ask. Feel free to post a comment or drop me a line.
[tags]legal andrew, backup, law firm, law, legal[/tags]
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