Backup Your Data

The most important thing you can do as a computer owner is to consistently and reliably back up the data stored on your hard drive. Hardware used to be the most valuable part of a computer but those bits and bytes are now the real investment. Hard drives fail. Operating systems crash. And then there are all those spammers and hackers. Data backup is more critical than ever before, especially for small businesses where data losses can damage the bottom line.

Data Backup is The Best Data Protection

The 3 Steps to Successful Data Backup

Data protection is crucial for protecting your business’s continuity. If your only data backup is on a computer, and the hard disk fails or is damaged by a power surge, your business data is gone. And having paper copies of business data isn’t adequate data protection; what if your business premises burn to the ground or experience severe flooding? Once again the data you need to carry on your business could be irretrievably lost.

For adequate data protection, you need to establish a data backup system that follows these three steps:

· archive business data regularly;

· create data backups on reliable media;

· keep updated data backups in a secure, off-site location.

The basic rule for business data protection is that if losing the data will interfere with doing business, back it up. You can reinstall software programs if you need to, but recovering the details of transactions or business correspondence is impossible if those files are lost or damaged beyond repair. The rest of this article outlines each of the steps listed above so you can establish a data backup system that will effectively protect your critical business data from disaster.

1) Archiving Critical Business Data

Archiving business data is more than a matter of good housekeeping; it could be a matter of your business’s survival. There are two steps to archiving business data for successful data backup;

· identifying the critical data that needs to be archived

· and using a data archiving method on a regular schedule.

What needs to be archived in a data backup? Executables, such as software programs, don’t need to be. You don’t create new versions of executable programs and, as I’ve said, if a software program was lost or corrupted, you could reinstall it fairly easily. However, all of the files that you’ve created and/or modified should be regularly backed up. For many businesses, this includes everything from accounting files through email. You can simplify your backup archiving by keeping all the files that will need to be archived on a single drive on your computer. For instance, suppose I need to back up accounting files, word- processing documents, spreadsheets, photo and email. Putting Simply Accounting, Microsoft Office (including Outlook) and Paintshop Pro all on the D:/ drive makes it easier for me to archive all the files I’ve created or modifed using those programs. All I have to do is back up the drive. While I don’t have to back up executables, it doesn’t hurt them if I do. Once you’ve selected the critical data to be archived, it’s a simple matter to install and use a backup software program to archive your business data on a regular schedule. I recommend backing up your data nightly. There are many backup software programs available that allow you to set a schedule that will archive your data automatically. Look for backup software that zips and encrypts files to save disk space and increase data security. If possible, backup over your computer network, keeping your data backup files on a separate hard drive from the original files. If this isn’t possible because you have a stand-alone computer, put your data backup files in a separate directory, and increase your schedule for creating physical backups. What kind of physical data backup system is best for data protection? Continue on to page 2…

Which Data Backup Media is Best?

The second step of data protection is creating data backups – not just once, but on a regular schedule. But before you do this, you need to be aware of the different backup systems available and the limitations of some backup media.

2) Creating Physical Data Backups

Physical data backups are necessary because of the possibility of computer failure or damage. Even a minor accident such as spilling a cup of coffee onto your laptop could destroy all your data, if that’s the only place your data resides. You should create physical data backups of your business data at least once a week, or even more often if your business generates large amounts of new data daily. There are several methods of transferring your backup files to another media, but some data backup systems are more reliable than others. Which backup media should you use?

Using CD-Roms as data backups

Using CD-Roms as data backups is popular. Blank CDs are inexpensive, and copying data onto CDs is easy. However, this is the most unreliable method of all the data backup methods listed here. Who hasn’t had the experience of putting a CD into a drive only to find that the data is unreadable and the disk “doesn’t work”? CDs, like the floppy disks they’ve replaced, have a limited shelf life. I don’t recommend this method of data backup for any small business. If you are writing your data backup files onto CDs, make sure that you make (and keep) multiple copies over time.

Using tapes as data backups

Tape backups are ten thousand times as reliable as CD-Roms, but tape drives and their associated media are much more expensive than CD-Rom writers and CDs. A good tape drive can still cost over $1000, and individual tapes for the drive can cost up to $40 each. If you can afford the equipment, however, tape backup is far and away the best backup method.

Using external hard drives for data backups

For small businesses, buying and using an external hard drive for data backups is the method I recommend. External hard drives are cheap compared to tape drive systems ; you can get one for several hundred dollars. They’re also easy to use; in many cases, all you have to do is plug the hard drive into your computer’s USB port. And while hard drives do fail, their failure rate is much lower than that of backup media such as CDs.

Using Online backup services as data backups

There are many companies offering online backup services, but I can’t recommend this method. Besides the potential of bandwidth problems, there are just too many security issues that have yet to be dealt with. Firstly, the method is only as reliable as the company offering the online backup service, and Internet service companies have been coming and going faster than the common cold lately. Secondly, if your business data is sensitive, (and whose isn’t?), why would you want to put it on the ‘Net?

3) Off-Site Data Backup

The only businesses that should be keeping their data backups on-site are those with fire-proof, indestructible safes. Investing in a tape drive or external hard drive and meticulously adhering to a regular data backup schedule won’t help if all your data backup copies are in one place and that place is struck by disaster. You must store copies of your backups off-site if your business data is to be truly secure. Many businesses keep their data backup copies in security boxes at banks. (The fee for a security box is tax-deductible, if you need further incentive.) Some small business owners keep multiple data backup copies of their records at the homes of different friends or family members. It doesn’t really matter where you choose to keep them, as long as the site you choose for off-site data backup is secure and you have regular access to it. Don’t run the risk of losing your business data. The best defense against such a disaster is proper data protection. By creating a backup system that includes archiving and backing up your business data regularly and properly, you’ll ensure that your business will be able to weather whatever storm it faces and carry on.

Top 5 Backup Software

The best backup software is both reliable and customizable, allowing you to customize and automate the data backup process. Here’s a selection of top PC backup software for small business users that meets the criteria and will give you the data backup protection you need.

1. 2BrightSparks SyncBackSE Backup Software

Ease of use and customization put this backup software at the top of the best backup software list. When they say that it’s easy to use for a novice or experienced user they mean it. A Profile Setup Wizard leads first-time users through in minutes while there’s a full array of options for advanced users. Compression, automation, encryption of data, a simple recovery process – SyncBackSE has all the features I recommend users look for in backup software. You can even backup files while programs are running if you wish.

2. EMC Retrospect Professional Backup Software

PC backup software should be easy to set up and easy to use, and Retrospect backup software is both. Retrospect Professional is designed for home and small businesses who want data backup protection for a single Windows computer and up to two additional networked computers. Once you have this best backup software set up, backups are automatic, fast and accurate – providing full data protection. You’ll also be able to perform Smart Restores and Automatic Disaster Recovery.

3. Norton Ghost Backup Software

Norton Ghost is another winning best backup software choice. Not only does this backup software back up everything on your computer automatically, but it also manages your backup space, constantly monitoring for adequate room and using compression and incremental backups to maximize disk space. If you prefer, you can set up your own backup schedule and/or do an on- demand backup with the click of a button. And if the need arises, the full recovery process is easy, too.

4. Acronis True Image Backup Software

With this backup software, designed for home and home office users, you can create a copy of your entire PC and restore it from an image in minutes – or just backup and restore particular files if you like. Features I particularly like are the Universal Restore which allow you to restore to different hardware or to a virtual machine, and the Try & Decide feature that lets you review changes to disks and partitions. The Graphical User Interface is quite clean and intuitive and the Wizards are short, both big pluses. Windows.

5. BounceBack Ultimate Backup Software

BounceBack backup software creates an exact copy of your computer hard drive including files, applications and the operating system allowing for easy access and the immediate recovery of lost or deleted files – a bootable copy of your hard drive without imaging. A ‘One-Button Recovery’ feature lets you start your PC from your external USB storage device and restore all of your data to either a new or to the existing PC hard drive. Backup software doesn’t get much easier than that. Windows 7, XP or Vista.

5 Ways to Back Up Your Data

How to keep your stuff safe

You know you need to do it. You know what will happen if you don’t do it. So without going into all the horror stories of the people who didn’t do it, let’s go into some of the different ways you can do it. No method is perfect, so the pros and cons of each technique are listed.

1. Save it to a NAS Device

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A NAS (network attached storage) is a server that’s dedicated for saving data. It can operate either wired or wirelessly — depending on the drive and your computer – and, once configured, can display as simply another drive on your computer.

Pros:

· Can back up several computers at once

· Can “set and forget” for automatic backup

Cons:

· Pricey

2. Save it to an External or Portable Hard Drive

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External and portable hard drives differ from NAS devices in that they connect to one computer at a time. They are usually wired devices, although some have wireless capabilities. Many external and portable drives are now coming with USB 3.0 capabilities, but your computer must also have USB 3.0 to take advantage of this.

Pros:

· Easy to use

· With software, can “set and forget”

Cons:

· Hard disk drives run the risk of failure

· Solid-state drives have less risk but can be expensive for large-capacity drives

3. Burn it to a CD (or DVD or Blu-ray Disc)

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Once the gold standard in data backup, burning data to CDs is now a much less popular, albeit still reliable, method of data backup.

Pros:

· Drive failure not an issue

· Can store safely in a second location (safety deposit box, for example)

Cons:

· Time consuming

· Relying on future of CD-capable technology

· Can get pricey for large amounts of data

4. Keep it Online

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The number of locations for storing data “in the cloud” is growing monthly. Current options include Mozy.com, ADrive.com, Dropbox.com and Amazon.com/S3

Pros:

· Usually affordable

· Data secured in a very remote location

Cons:

· Capacity limitations

· Run the risk of site closing

5. Put it on a USB Flash Drive

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USB flash drives are like tiny solid-state drives that you can carry your pocket. While once expensive and available only in small capacities, their prices are dropping and their sizes rising every day.

Pros:

· Affordable

· Portable

· Now available in USB 3.0

Cons:

· Extremely easy to misplace (not recommended for long-term storage of crucial information because of this risk)

· Not always durable

· Capacity limitations

6 Rules of Business Data Protection

Data Protection Basics for Your Business

If the hard drive on your server failed, how fast could your business recover? What if your business burned to the ground?

Business data is the most valuable asset any business has – but many are cavalier about protecting it. Following these six rules of business data protection will ensure that your business is able to get up and running again quickly no matter what happens.

1) Keep your business data in a secure location on-site. Point one; do not keep your business’s computer server with all-important hard drives in a spot where someone could easily grab it and run off, such as in front of an unbarred window in a ground floor office on a busy street. Point two; good business data security starts with good physical security.

2) Restrict access to your business data on-site. All employees do not need access to all business data and the public should not have access at all. Setting up users and permissions on computer networks is not particularly difficult. Sensitive paper documents can be stored in locking filing cabinets and if possible, in rooms that lock separately. Give out keys only to those trusted individuals who need access.

3) Back up your business data regularly. The 3 Steps to Successful Data Backup explains how to set up a backup system for your small business.

4) Keep backup copies of your electronic business data off site – and replace these with updated copies at appropriate intervals. You can use online backup services to keep your business data on the ‘Net or put a backup hard drive somewhere secure such as into a bank security box. In case of physical disaster, having all your backup copies of your business data on your business premises is not a good idea.

5) Get your essential business documents together (the documents that are critical to your small business’s operations) and put them in a secure waterproof, fireproof container. An on-site safe works well for this.

6) Protect your business data against power outages. Get Uninterrupted Power Sources (UPSs) for all your computers. A good UPS, such as this one, the APC Back-UPS RS 1300 does two things; protects your electrical equipment from power surges and outages, and protects your business data by keeping your computers up and running during an outage. You may also want to invest in a generator.

Data Protection Buys Peace of Mind

The key to data protection is trying to make sure that particular crises don’t happen rather than trying to recover from disaster afterwards. But investing a little time and money into data protection now will give you peace of mind and a much easier, faster business recovery if the worst happens.

How To Back Up Data From Computer That

Won’t Boot

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Recently I have been on a spree of fixing unbootable OS’s for friends and family. A surprising fact that I discovered was that many of them were ready to reformat and perform a fresh Windows install, if only they could just backup their music, photos and the likes. So here I am with a piece on how to back up hard drive data on your computer when the operating system won’t boot. The easiest most hassle-free way to achieve our objective is to use a Live CD. Period. Forget about all other ways and all the advice you get. If you have a functional CD drive and a Live CD or can arrange one then this is the way to go bro. You won’t regret it. A Live CD, if you don’t already know, allows you to run an Operating System from your CD drive. There are lot’s of Live CD’s available on the Internet. A large number of Linux distributions are available as Live CD’s. Just pop them in, make a few choices and you get a complete OS on the fly with no changes to your data on the hard disk. You can do pretty much anything from there in, even update a status or two on Twitter/Facebook while waiting for the file transfers to finish. Here are a few Live CD suggestions if you care for one:

· Knoppix

· Damn Small Linux (DSL)

· Ubuntu

· A Windows Live CD – requires some effort.

How would you burn a disc when the freaking operating system won’t boot? My apologies if you are reading this after the problem has occurred. I am afraid you would have to ask a friend to create a Live CD for you or you can use another computer if you have access to one. That being said, it is always a nice thing to prepare a couple of them beforehand for the rainy day. I say a couple of them because 1) most of them are free and 2) you never know if one of them decides it doesn’t like your video adapter (for example) and refuses to boot. The links listed above will let you download an ISO file. Next step is to burn the ISO file to a disc.

· Download the one you like and run it. Look for an option that burns an image file or ISO file to a disc.

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· Choose the said option, let the software know where the ISO file is that you want to burn.

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· Pop in a blank CD and the software should do the rest. When the burn process completes you should have a Live CD in your hands.

What If The CD Drive Is Broken Or Not Available?

A very valid scenario indeed, specially with the ultra thin laptops and netbooks these days. In such a case you can either use a USB CD drive or what we would call a Live USB stick. We have written about how you can create a Live USB from an ISO file or even from an installer CD. One thing to keep in mind is that some old computers just cannot boot from the USB drive.

Set The Boot Device Priority

Before your computer can boot from either a CD or a Live USB drive you might have to change the boot device priority from the computer’s BIOS settings. This is not as scary as it sounds. Follow along:

· Power on the computer. Most computers will display a graphic depicting the processor or the manufacturer or some general information. If you look around you will also see that the computer prompts you with a Key combination that you can use to enter the BIOS settings page. Generally it is the F2 key but it can vary.

· Hit the desired key (F2 if it is) and you are in. Now look for an option that lets you change the boot device. Different BIOS have it named differently and under different menus, but if you look around it should not be too difficult. The setting will list devices like CD drive, external drive, first hard disk drive and the likes.

· You can move these devices up and down in the list. Make sure that CD drive (or external drive if you are using a USB key) is listed before the hard disk. You can change this back once have a functional Operating System. Save and exit.

We Are Set

Now restart the computer with the Live CD inside the tray and the computer should pick up the contents of the CD and load the contained operating system. You will get a fully functional system once the OS boots up. The Live OS should automatically detect your hard disk and list the various partitions as drives. From here on you can use the computer just as you would use it normally and you can easily back up the required files.

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You would of course need an external media like an external USB disk or a USB flash drive depending upon the amount of data that you want to back up. Just copy the required files to the destination as usual. When you are done, just shut down the computer, take out the hard disk and now you are ready to format the computer or attempt any other fixes without worrying about the precious data on the hard drive.

3 Tips to Avoid Data Loss

Computers have become a natural way of life for many of us. With this convenience comes the possibility that your machine might crash, causing you to lose every piece of critical information you ever saved on it. The top three reasons computers crash are hard drive failures, registry damage and malware infections. With the prevalence of the internet, all three of these factors make you vulnerable to the loss of data. In order to save yourself the time, money and effort it takes to recover from a disaster, you must how these situations may occur and what can be done to prevent them.

#1– Store Data in Different Locations

Most data is loss when the operating system or the hard disk on it fails. This is why you should create at least two partitions if you only have one hard disk on your system. It would be a good idea to store Windows in the first partition and all of your data in the second partition. This reduces the chances of losing your data if the Windows system happens to fail. Another option is to implement an additional hard disk on your system and store files on the new disk. This will protect your data if Windows or the original hard disk fails. There are also other methods of prevention that can be performed to keep your data secure. Make sure to regularly use the Disk Cleanup utility in Windows to sweep up unwanted files and fragments from your system. You can also run the Disk Defragmenter tool every now and then to consolidate your files and increase the data access time on your hard disk.

# 2 – Stay Clear of Malware

One of the biggest threats to your data is malicious software, more commonly known as malware. Viruses, Trojans and worms are all on the prowl and can be secretly installed on your system in a number of ways. These destructive programs create a large number of unwanted and harmful entries in your registry, often causing system crashes and compromising multiple machines. This is why you need to protect your computer with reliable security software. A quality anti-malware program is a must these days, along with firewall components. Additionally, you can use a registry cleaning tool to sweep out all of the file remnants left behind from uncompleted installations and malicious entries. There are number of quality products readily available on the internet to keep your data safe. Security vendors such as McAfee and Symantec offer some of the best programs to protect you against the common threat of malware. There are also many cleaning utilities specifically designed for your Windows registry.

# 3 – Backup Your Data

The most effective way to avoid the loss of data is to create frequent backups of your files. If this information is of any importance, your backup system must be reliable and used on a regular schedule. The many available storage options allow you to store data on mediums like CDs, DVDs, pen drives, external disk drives, tapes and online storage providers. If this data is really sensitive, it is important to store at least two copies of it and keep at least one copy in secured offsite location.

Data Recovery Plan

Data loss can occur as a result of many different kinds of circumstances that range from accidental deletion of files to security breaches by criminals with malicious intent and natural disasters. This is why it is important to plan a strategy for the recovery of data within an organization in the event of data loss. Planning ahead prevents unscheduled downtimes, as well as having to take cost prohibitive measures to try and recover the data to get the organization up and running again. Here are some things to consider when assembling an effective data recovery plan.

Identify the Needs of the Organization

Consider what the data recovery needs are for the organization and what it would take to continue the business after data loss has occurred. Assessing the needs of the organization is a critical component to designing a data recovery plan that is appropriate.

Develop a Multi-Level Recovery Strategy

Create an assessment of the possible risks of losing data and how critical the data is at certain levels of your organization. Based on this information, develop a multi- level strategy that ensures all levels of your data infrastructure will be recovered in the event of data loss.

Create a Plan That Makes It Easy to Recover Data

Although there are different backup sites at different levels of cost, assess the data that is critical and then develop a plan that will recover the data within a reasonable amount of time. For example, tape backup recovery can take significantly longer than online data backup. The best way to determine an appropriate plan is to decide how much downtime the organization can afford before the impact of data loss hinders business operations.

Assess Network Recovery

In addition to data backup and recovery you also have to consider a plan for recovering the network infrastructure in the event of a disaster. The network is just as vital to business operations as the data infrastructure. For network recovery you may want to consider hosting your network with a service provider. By hosting your network with a service provider, you will have a solution for recovery that is designed and managed by the service provider which will make the network accessible even if the network fails onsite.

Understand the Risks

Understanding the risks that can cause data loss will help you to better understand how to assemble a data recovery plan that addresses the risks associated with data loss. The risks should be weighed against the individual needs of the organization to design a plan of action that is well suited to the operations of the company.

 

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