For goodness sake get a backup and another and another of your files.

Can you tell I have run into this again lately?

About a year ago, I was in the ICU room with my grandmother and I received a call from a client who could not find some pictures she wanted. It turns out her close friend had died of cancer. My client could not find the pictures of activities she and her friend had shared. I was able to help her find all of them back to about a year before I started doing work for her. Turns out my customer had not looked for the pictures in years (this is normal, when do you look at old pictures?). My company had built her a new computer over 3 years ago and the pictures had not made the move. We only keep old hard drives for 6 months so there was no way to get the images from there. Prior to us working for this client, they had no backup plan; we had put a NAS in, however her new PC backed up over the old data. I remoted in from the ICU Ward and searched her PC, the company server and the NAS, no luck.

There were several factors that went into this loss of images, when the new PC was built, we asked her to double-check and see if anything was missing, she did not notice that pictures from 2 years before and older where not there ( I am not blaming just pointing out the facts). This is the reason when we replace a computer for a customer, if the old hard drive is good, we label it and lock it in a drawer for 6 months. The 2nd issue is that I (yes, notice I am taking responsibility) or my staff, did not create a new backup routine on the NAS, because space was limited we simply used the same routine, thus overwriting the old data with the new. Finally the picture software program she was using did not store images under the standard Microsoft folder “Pictures”, it put them in its own folder under “C:\Program Files\Crappy Software Name\Something Obscure”. I hate it when programs do that.

The result, I believe, is that I lost the clients trust and eventually business, at least, in part because of the loss of her pictures.

Twice in the year since then I have been at an individual’s home, a service call for a crashed computer where the hard drive was gone. In both cases they had no backup and in both cases lost all their pictures of family, emails and important documents. Neither customer wanted to spend the approx. $1,000 to send the drive off to the type of shops that have a clean room and attempt to recover that way.

Backing up is easy, and in my opinion a wise thing to do. Even if you use a thumb / usb drive (which I do not recommend) or burn a CD or DVD, you need to do something.

If you are a home owner / individual or work out of your home, your backup needs will be different than if you have a small office with 3 to 25 computers. This article is intended for businesses with 3 or more computers, next week I hope to publish one for the individual and home office.

In any case, using the built in Windows backup program is a good start.

The Windows 7 built in backup is easy and flexible compared to the Vista one. If you still use XP, I have a complete article over here

If you are still using XP or Vista, it is past time to upgrade to Windows 7, NOT Windows 8.

To get to the Windows 7 backup just click on the Windows icon in the lower left of the screen and type “backup” in the Search box. Out of what appears in the list should be “Backup and Restore” under the “Programs” heading. Once open click on the “Setup Backup” text and begin. By default it finds your hard drives, mapped drives (drives connected to another computer, server or NAS) and any burners you have.

The next screen has two selections, “Let Windows Choose” or “Let Me Choose”, if you want to know what Windows selects automatically click on the blue text “How does Windows choose what files to backup?” Here is what it currently states.

If you let Windows choose what is backed up, the following items are included in your backup:
•    Data files that are saved in libraries, on the desktop, and in default Windows folders for all people with a user account on the computer.
o    Only local files in libraries are included in the backup. If you have files in a library that are saved on a drive located on a different computer on a network, on the Internet, on the same drive that you are saving the backup on, or on a drive that is not formatted using the NTFS file system, they aren’t included in the backup.
o    Default Windows folders include AppData, Contacts, Desktop, Downloads, Favorites, Links, Saved Games, and Searches.
•    If the drive you are saving your backup on is formatted using the NTFS file system and has enough disk space, a system image of your programs, Windows, and all drivers and registry settings are also included in the backup. This image can be used to restore the contents of your computer if your hard drive or computer stops working.

As you can read, this is a lot of stuff, however, as in the case of my client; it won’t save information stored in locations that are not “default Windows folders”.

If you choose to select the folders yourself, make sure to get the main folders listed above, EXCEPT, I do not recommend getting the entire “AppData” folder, it can be huge. If you are an individual I don’t see the need to backup the “LocalLow” or “Roaming” folders under AppData, businesses, especially with a Domain, should back this up. Under the AppData/Local folder you will need to backup as appropriate, the Windows Live folder (if you use it). If you use Outlook, you will need to backup the entire C:\Users\User Name\AppData\Local\Microsoft\Outlook folder.

After you select the folders or use the Windows default you simply follow the directions to complete the process. As the backup is running you can see the status, also notice in the middle of the window that is automatically schedules it for you.

The disadvantage of a weekly backup is what you created, updated and received since then. If you backup on Sunday and the hard drive crashes or laptop is lost on Saturday, then all that you have done in the last week is gone. So if your data changes frequently you should have the backup program run more often.

This is why, if you have an “Important” PC (and I don’t know of too many that are not important) make sure it has RAID 1 (mirrored hard drives), just spend the money. Most inexpensive computers do not support RAID; you need to check with the manufacturer or the maker of the motherboard. If you really want your data, I highly recommend you extra money on a system, the motherboards cost $50 more (on up), and an extra hard drive is about $75. For that small amount the vast majority of the time, if a hard drive fails, you have the information on another drive and you keep chugging along while you or your IT company order a replacement drive.

While I am on the topic, if you have a server, for the sake of love, make sure it has AT LEAST 4 hard drives in a RAID 5 configuration. Since you rarely work on the server, if you have a RAID 1 and one drive fails, there is a great chance you won’t see the notification, and when the 2nd drive fails, the server is down for days while new drives are ordered. Most, likely vital data is going to also be lost. A properly setup server RAID should send email alerts if any drive in the RAID has issues. Cheap servers using software RAID, to my knowledge, don’t do this. Again, it is your business and lively hood, spending the extra is worth it, just like insurance, you hope you don’t need it but if you do, it saves your bacon.

I have had customers who bought inexpensive servers off the internet (cough Dell, cough cough) that only had RAID 1, both drives died and they had no backup, bad things happened. One was a hotel, all reservations were lost, all customer information for payments made or not made, all ability to market by mining the data they had was lost. Ouch!

If your business computers have important data (pictures, videos, documents, databases, emails) on each of them, get a Windows Home Server (WHS) or a Windows Small Business Server 2012. You can easily have the individual computers make an image backed up to the server. Server 2012 has some additional benefits over WHS that need to be considered. Server 2012 has better security, data integrity, data encryption and faster access times than WHS.

A WHS or Small Business Server 2012 can not only backup your PC’s but it can serve as a central storage for all those files. No more wondering where a file, document or image is stored. Along with a central location, you can setup remote connections so you can access your business data from the road. Here is a link to an article I wrote on the virtues of a WHS, remember this article is from 2009, my new one is bigger and faster, however the features are the same.

After making sure your main computer(s) have RAID, and you have a WHS or Server 2012, you will want to get a NAS (Network Attached Storage device) and backup just the “important” data from the PC’s and WHS to it. In my case, since the WHS backs up each PC, laptop et al completely, every night, to itself, I have the WHS backup to the NAS weekly. That way the home videos, music et al that I store on the WHS are backed up. That data changes rarely so a weekly backup is fine.

The next thing to consider, theft, fire, tornados and floods can destroy your computers and backup devices. If you have a fire, tornado, flood or such natural disaster, you are out of business for months or longer. I have clients from Joplin that still have not rebuilt from that massive tornado, that was over 2 years ago, the same with a few that were destroyed in the tornado that hit Branson over a year ago.

However, if your business is still standing but someone steals your computers, NAS and / or Server, an off-site backup is an ideal way to access or retrieve your data. With off-site backups you store your data “in the cloud”, basically across multiple servers, many times in multiple locations, in a secure way. The security used is called encryption and there are several types, I won’t go into that here. There are any one of a thousand cloud backup places and programs, I like Mozy and Evault.  Your local IT company might have their own servers (I used to do that but have chosen to use others for Federal compliance issues).

Prices for off-site / cloud backups run all over the spectrum, I have seen them run from $10.95 per month plus $1 per GB of data, down to flat rate, regardless of data size. This can get expensive and since you are backing up over the internet, it also takes a VERY long time for large amounts of data to backup. For those reasons, I recommend only backing up mission critical data to the cloud, the database that must exist to keep you in business, not your personal pictures or music.

I have brands / companies I like and dislike, however I have not used many and can only recommend or not recommend a few based on personal and customer experience. I don’t like Carbonite, twice customers needed their backed up information and could not retrieve it and the Carbonite tech support was like “so sad too bad”. Mozy is very dependable but on the high side at $6.95 per server per month plus 50 cents per gigabyte of data per month. Evault is free if you have less than 10GB of data BUT their notifications and features are minimal and when it runs, it hogs resources, slowing your server to a crawl. If you have questions, feel free to contact me for more details. I will be experimenting with new companies over this summer.

The last backup method I would recommend is to get a Bare Metal Image program like Acronis. It will create an exact image of your server on an external hard drive. I believe you should have it run automatically AT LEAST once a week. The advantage of an image / bare metal recovery programs is that if something really bad happens, you can drop a new server in place (usually it needs to be the same hardware, however, a Universal Bare Metal Recovery works on different hardware), run the Acronis restore and 4 or 5 hours later, your server is up and running. If you rotate out external hard drives you can have several images spread around, say one connected to the server, one in a safe at your business’s location and one at home.

Until we meet again, have a virus free week!


One thought on “For goodness sake get a backup and another and another of your files.

  1. I have been reviewing off-site / cloud backups since I wrote this article.
    On the right side of the screen, under “Categories” you can click on “Backing up” for a list of the articles.
    For additional reviews and another prospective on backup solutions please visit Geoff Akerlund’s web site

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *