Saturday, November 21, 2009

Protect your digital files - back up your computer (1)

A frequently asked question when visiting societies is how to back up computer files.

Much time is spent on computer projects - scanning images, creating databases, preparing publications and displays plus general office files relating to the operation of the society. Backing up these files regularly is important. Computers do not last forever and and there are many ways that data can be lost.

Back up copies should be kept of programs, database files, scanned images, audio and video files, word documents, spreadsheets, electronic copies of newsletters and other publications etc.

Societies should prepare a back up plan at the time they purchase a computer.

Technically backing up is easy to do. The number of devices available to do this has increased and prices are decreasing.

External hard drives hold huge amounts of data and are inexpensive to purchase. A recent check of the Officeworks website showed 1 TB external hard drives available for $149. Other sizes available were 750 GB, 1.5 TB and 2 TB. These devices connect to the computer via a USB port.

Pocket hard drives were also available - 320 GB, 400 GB, 500 GB - at prices between $99 and $129.

USB drives come in a variety of sizes - 1 GB, 2 GB, 4 GB, 8 GB, 16 GB. The smaller storage sizes vary in price from $10 to $25.

Most computers now have the ability to burn cd-roms and/or dvds which can be another convenient way of storing back-ups on a read only disk or on a rewritable disk.

Other devices that might be used in societies are zip drives, back-up tapes and in some cases, on older computers, floppy disks.

A word of caution: purchase the type of device that will fulfill your back up requirements. Just because a device holds huge quantities of data does not mean that it is the best purchase option. The stability and reliability of some of the larger devices has been questioned.

All of these devices, like computers, can fail. It is therefore essential to
  • use more than one device for backing up
  • keep at least one back-up copy off site

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