In my post Questions for the IT Guy, I went over some of the information you need to know about how computers and files are handled in your company. If you followed my advice there, and you found out that your company doesn’t do backups of files on the PCs, you will need to develop a plan for backing up those files yourself.
You could back up your entire hard drive, including operating system and software files, however that is fairly time consuming, especially if you have an older, slower computer. For most of us in the administrative field, the most important files that you need to back up are your document files. If you keep all of your files in one location, such as My Documents, this is fairly easy to do. Having your files scattered all over the place makes backing up very difficult. If you aren’t using a central location for your files, I recommend moving them all to a central directory and using that location going forward. This will help your backup process immensely.
How often you perform backups is up to you. It can be daily, weekly, or even monthly. The more often, though, the more secure your documents are. For instance, if you perform a monthly backup, and you have a crash on the last day of the month, you’ll lose an entire month’s worth of data.
Personally, I like doing daily backups. Well, technically, it’s a Monday through Friday backup, since I’m not coming into the office on the weekend just to perform backups. I keep each backup for 1 week, so if I know a document is lost or damaged within a week of it happening, I can restore the document from the backup.
Just performing backups is not going to keep your data secure. You can backup daily and still lose everything if you keep all backups on-site. One fire can wipe out not only your PC, but your carefully performed backups as well. Remember, you need to keep at least one backup off-site at all times.
My procedure is as follows. After I run my daily backup, I put the most recent backup in my purse to take home. That night, I switch the most recent backup from my purse to a storage spot at home, and take the one from the previous day and put it in my purse. The next day, I place that backup into my office storage area and put the current one in my purse. So, at all times, you have one with you, one at home, and three in the office (assuming you are doing the M-F plan).
Example: On Monday, I have Friday’s backup at home, and Thursday’s in my purse. When I run my backup on Monday, I take Thursday’s backup and add it to the three that stay on-site, and I put Monday’s in my purse. When I get home that night, I place Monday’s in my home storage area, and place Friday’s in my purse.
I used to just keep one backup off-site. But then it occurred to me that if there was a fire while I was at work while I was in another part of the building and couldn’t retrieve my purse, my “off-site” backup would burn along with everything else. So now I keep two off-site: one secure at home and one in transport.
Regardless of your frequency of backup, the most recent backup should be kept off-site. However, remember that you should keep any confidential data that is taken off-site in a secure, encrypted manner.
The media that you use to keep your backup is going to vary depending on the size of your backups. If you have a smaller size backup, you can use a CD or DVD for the backup. You can also use a USB drive (aka a thumbnail drive). I personally like these. You can get them in large sizes, and you can get them encrypted, so that your data is secure on the drive. They are also more durable and less likely to be damaged. I’ve seen 4 gig encrypted drives for less than $20 including shipping.
This information should cover the basics of creating a backup plan. Later I’ll talk about how to actually perform your backups.