Saturday, November 21, 2009

Protect your digital files - back up your computer (2)

To back up computer files, the files on the computer need to be selected and then copied or sent or dragged to a back-up device.

It is therefore necessary to organise your computer so that the files are in logical folders. You can then easily choose the items that require backing up.

If regularly backing up all the files on the computer it may be easier if all folders are kept in an over-riding folder labelled Data. The Data file would then be copied to the back-up device and stored in a folder noting the date the back-up occurred - for instance Jan 2009, Feb 2009.

Your back up plan may be to back up all files once a year and to have regular back-ups of files that are altered or added to such as databases, scanned images etc. If the database files are kept in a folder labelled Databases and the images are in folders stored in a folder labelled Scanned Images it is easy to select just these folders.

Programs such as some databases (DB/TextWorks), some audio files (Audacity files) etc may consist of a number of files making up the whole. Make sure that you are aware of the components so that if you are copying these files you copy all of the required parts.

Nine files ending in .acf, .btx, .dbo, .dbr, .dbs, .ixl, .occ, .sdo and .tba are needed to form a DB/TextWorks database - for example museum.acf, museum.btx etc. You would need to select all of these files to back up the database.

Backed up files can be stored on another computer but, in some cases, they may only work on that computer if the program that created the files is also installed on the computer.

Programs, such as databases, may also have options to export all or some of the database records or to dump the contents of the database into a file. If there is limited storage on the back-up device this can be a quick way of backing up records. It would also be advisable to have a back-up of the data structure, forms, search screens and record skeletons so that, if necessary, a database can be reconstructed.

Back-ups should be kept on more than one device with at least one device kept off site.

Keep several copies of back-ups before deleting or over riding earlier copies. Number the back-ups by date or numerically - 1, 2, 3, 4 - etc. but make sure it is clear which is the latest version, After a time earlier folders can be replaced by a current one.

At the History Victoria Support Group Seminar Day on Saturday 21 November options were discussed for storing data or computer back-ups off site.
  • Another organisation, such as a local library or neighbouring society, using the same database program may be prepared to keep a copy of your societies, database files on their computer with their database files.
  • Another organisation may be prepared to store your off site back-up copies. It was suggested that, if the contents of the computer were backed up once a year onto a device such as a pocket drive, the device could be stored at the premises of another organisation for twelve months and replaced each year with the latest back-up. Formal agreement with signed forms outlining the conditions would need to be made. Eastern Regional Libraries is prepared to trial such a project. Other libraries may also agree to such an arrangement. Back-ups, especially of regularly used files, new image scans etc, would still need to be made and kept safely between each annual back-up.
  • Word documents can be stored on Google docs or other online word processor. Google docs is also an option to consider if a number of people are working on a project. Versions of documents can be put online and viewed and edited only by those granted permission to access the documents.
  • Files, provided that they are not too large, can be stored as attachments to emails using online email accounts such as Hotmail, Gmail etc. If an email account was set up specifically for this purpose exported database files can regularly be uploaded. Be aware of the size restrictions for attachments. If a file is too large work out how to export the file in sections. Remember that online email accounts may require someone accessing the account regularly to keep the account alive.
  • Include part of your database records in an database. Victorian Local History Database is a database of information items in collections of RHSV affiliated societies not involved in other regional database projects.
  • Include low resolution images in an image sharing project such as Picture Victoria / Picture Australia.
  • Flickr is another option for the online sharing / storage of images.
  • LibraryThing provides an option for cataloguing book collections.

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