If there’s a file on your computer that’s important to you (and we’re betting there’s plenty of them), you can’t rely on one method for making sure your files will always be there and intact. The bottom line is that any important data should exist in two or more physical locations at once.
No matter how secure you make your computer, failures can still occur, e.g., your computer freezes in the middle of a project and you haven’t clicked Save in an hour, you accidentally delete a file, your hard drive gets a virus and needs to be restored to factory settings, your computer is lost, stolen, or physically damaged.
If you haven’t made a backup of a project you’re working on for class, you will spend hours or days trying to start from scratch. Other older files you’ve lost won’t be able to be replaced at all. Besides document, music and photo files, you’ll also want to back up Web browser bookmarks, contacts databases.
It’s generally not practical or appropriate to back up copies of programs you have installed, but you should always make sure you keep the installation disks or files. This way, you will be able to reinstall programs that you own, if your computer is reimaged or replaced. It is important to back up license files for applications.
There are a number of ways to back up your data. They generally fall into three categories: backing up to the network, backing up to an external disk or drive, and using a third party back up service.
Back up to Google Drive: Google Drive is a free file storage and synchronization service, which enables user cloud storage, file sharing and collaborative editing.
Back up to the network: Each employee has a networked H: drive and each department has its own I: drive where faculty and staff can store files that are intended for collaboration or sharing with colleagues. Both of these drives are good locations for you to store copies of important files after making changes to them.
Back up to an external disk or drive: There are a variety of types of external drives. USB drives come in a variety of sizes; some very small and portable, some too big to carry in your backpack every day. The larger USB drives are a generally reliable option for backing up your data. However, the smaller thumb or flash drives are only recommended for temporary storage of data, such as carrying information from home to campus for a presentation. These drives fail frequently and are not recommended for long term storage. You can also use CD or DVD burners to save your data to a disc.
Use a third party back up service: There are hundreds of companies out there that offer file storage for a price (just do a search for “Internet back up service”) but in most cases you don’t have to pay for storage. Your AU Google Apps Drive (Docs) offers free storage up to 5GB and your AU Gmail has 25GB. Most of your documents won’t take up much space, but if you are saving lots of pictures or design files, you may need to consider other options. Another good point about the google apps for education storage is that files in native Google Apps formats do not count against the storage space.
System Image Backups (for your personal computer)
Besides simply backing up files, you should create a complete backup of your system that can be restored in case of a total meltdown. These type of backups require a lot of drive space.
You should back up your data as soon as you have created enough new files or changes to existing files that it would be difficult to recreate them, if lost. IT recommends backing up individual files daily if you are saving to the local drive of your computer.
Many AU students, faculty, and staff choose laptops because of their mobility, but they are also more vulnerable to loss or theft. Consider the following suggestions to protect your computer equipment: