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Make Regular Backups

A good backup strategy is essential for data security. A backup is the last defense against data loss, providing a way to restore original data.

Reasons for having Data Backup - To Restore Lost Data

Data on a hard disk can be lost for a variety of reasons, such as:-

  • hardware failure;

  • operating system failure, e.g., file system crash;

  • files or volumes modified or deleted accidentally by yourself

  • files or volumes modified or deleted intentionally by intruder;

  • files or volumes modified or deleted by virus or malicious codes.

Tips for Making a Backup

  • Identify what data needs to be archived. You should always classify your data into different level of importance. Backup of critical data shall be performed more frequently, e.g. daily or whenever the data is modified.

  • Encrypt sensitive information. If your data contains sensitive information, you should encrypt the data. Alternatively, there are a number of commercial software tools that can enforce password protection for a given set of data to guard against unauthorised reading or editing.

  • Avoid storing data in dispersed locations. It will be much easier to perform backup on a set of data if the components of the set are stored in the same proximity, e.g., all under the "My Documents" folder or on a separate "d:" drive.

  • Choose appropriate backup media. Common media for backup include:-

    • USB flash drives - 1GB to 8 GB flash drives are now very common. They are fast for data copying, convenient to carry and easy to operate. However, they are only good for temporary or short-term storage due to the volatility of stored data. It is easy to lose flash drives, as they are small and slim. Use USB flash drives with care.

    • CD-R or DVD-R - The media is inexpensive, and data volumes go up to 4GB for a single side DVD-R. The speed when writing data to a DVD-R or CD-R is slow and relatively more complicated, and you will need a CD-R or DVD-R writable drive with bundled software to perform data backup.

    • Removable (external) hard disk - Depending on the hard drive model, a backup volume like this can run to several hundred GB, or even multi-terabyte (1000 GB). These are fast, simple and convenient. However, hard drives are mechanical devices and may be prone to physical damage, if they are not sufficiently shock proof.

    • Tape - backup tape (usually DAT) is only really for advanced users or organisational or network backup. Managing a tape drive backup system can be complicated and requires an IT specialist.

    • Hardcopy print out - In some cases, the only option may be to print out copies of your data for backup purpose.

  • Monitor the backup process. Always keep an eye on the backup process. There are often some files locked by the computer that cannot be copied at the time of backup. In addition, before you perform a backup, make sure your computer is "clean" - ensure you have the latest anti-virus software installed.

  • Protect your backups. Depending on the backup media you select, consider where you store your backups once complete. For example:

    • DVD-Rs and CD-Rs should be stored in a cool place, away from direct sunlight, moisture and chemicals.

    • Flash drives and removable hard disk should be kept in a dry and electrostatic free storage location.

    Consult the manufacturer on the best way to store the media. Also consider the physical security of the media. You do not want to have your data stolen or destroyed by fire, so it is good practice to keep your sensitive and critical data backups away from your normal data backup in a separate location.

  • Label your backups. It is a good practice to label your backup by writing down the backup date, and a brief description of the contents. An index summary for previous backup is also useful for later retrieval.

  • Verify and check your data recovery process. It is a good idea to check and verify that you can actually recover data from your backup, in particular,

    • when you upgrade the operating system and software on your computer - for instance, check if your CDR drive is compatible with the new system.

    • Check that the formats of any backed-up documents are still supported by the new system.

    • Certain types of old media may not be supported by your new system, e.g. fewer and fewer new PCs come with floppy drives now, so you may not be able to retrieve data from a floppy disk backup set.

  • Disposing of your backup media.

Click here to learn more about Backup & Recovery.

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