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Easy Inexpensive Ways to Protect Your Data-Part 4

February 1st, 2006

Today’s post is the last in a series of four. In Part 1 we reviewed the strategy of having two identical synchronized hard drives, in Part 2 we talked about the importance segregating the data on your hard drive, and Part 3 covered external hard drives.

This concluding post emphasizes archiving your vital data. I recommend creating a special folder within your data folder hierarchy that contains your most important data – something akin to the type of important information you would store physically in a safe deposit box. I protect this data two ways:

  1. First, I periodically burn it on a DVD and keep it in a safe deposit box.
  2. Second I use an encrypted automated FTP backup service that automatically updates my critical files every evening. My company sells this service for less than $30 per year. Search for “online file folder” at RisingLineWeb.com.

These are worst case scenario precautions, if my office burns down my most important data is still secure.

So, in conclusion, you’ve got to have the mindset that your system will crash. So many people who’s life and livelihood are based in the millions of 0’s and 1’s that they’ve created on their PC’s fail to realize the likelihood of a catastrophic system failure and the impact it will have on their lives.

The strategies I mentioned are the only solutions, or even necessarily the best, but if you implement them you will have a multiple redundant system in place to recover your most important data.

Easy Inexpensive Ways to Protect Your Data-Part 3

January 28th, 2006

In Part 1 we reviewed the strategy of having two identical synchronized hard drives. In Part 2 we talked about the importance segregating the data on your hard drive.

This weeks strategy is about using an external hard drive for data backup. There are numerous options for dedicated external hard drives designed specifically for small office backup solutions, many that feature automated backup software. There are lots of good products on the market, but some of the better values I’ve found are from SimpleTech:

  • 160GB External USB 2.0 with backup software, 1 yr warranty ($96 at Costco.com at the time of this posting).
  • 500GB External USB 2.0 with 1 touch backup software, 3 yr warranty, Kensington lock bracket.($219 from Costco.com at the time of this posting).
  • 400GB SimpleShare Wireless NAS. It doesn’t seem to be listed on Costco.com but I saw this recently at a Costco store…it featured a 802.11 Network Attached Storage unit that could accept additional external hard drives, was
    priced at Costco at $389.00. More info can be found at simpletech.com

(Costco is one of my preferred suppliers for computer hardware peripherals because they have the most liberal return policy for computer hardware of any supplier of which I’m aware.)

Buying a dedicated hard drive backup solution allows most users to back up an entire drive, but really the critical files you want backed up are your data files. So, depending on how much data you actually have, a large external drive that backs up your whole drive (operating system, application files, and data files) might be overkill, especially if your already replicating your hard drives internally as mentioned in part 1 of this series.

Another, less expensive option, is to buy an external hard drive enclosure ($20-$40) in which you can mount a extra hard drive. If you’re like most small businesses, you probably have accumulated a small stack of these extra hard drives…just make sure the hard drive you pick was not orphaned because it had potential technical issues. External hard drive enclosures connect to your PC via USB or Firewire cable, and you can buy a software utility to automatically backup or just back up manually on a regular basis. As long as you’re not relying on this as your only backup it’s an inexpensive and effective option.

Ideally, you should physically move your external hard drive backup to a safe, or at least another room, when you’re away; or buy one with a Kensignton lock bracket (you’ll have to buy the Kensington cable lock separately). That way you’ll be more likely to retain your data backup if your PC is stolen.

Try searching for “hard drive enclosure” at Tiger Direct, or CDW.

Next weeks post: Remote data archiving for disaster recovery.

Easy Inexpensive Ways to Protect Your Data-Part 2

January 14th, 2006

In part 1, we reviewed the strategy of having two identical synchronized hard drives.

Today’s strategy is segregating the data on your hard drive. By keeping all your important data in a primary folder hierarchy you’ll be able to manage your important files more efficiently and reduce the risk of overlooking important
information that needs backed up.

You’ll want to make sure that your data is organized in under a single folder (like My Documents) and organize within that folder. For those who don’t know, there are three basic types of software on your computer: the operating system (e.g. Windows), application software (e.g. Word), and data files (the files that that you’ve created and want to protect).

You’ll need to take a look at your application software settings and insure that your data files created in those programs are stored in the folder you want, examples include your Outlook pst file, other Office applications, and your accounting software.

Next weeks post: Using an external hard drive backup.

Data Loss is Inevitable!

January 5th, 2006

They tell us that computer technology has revolutionized our life-exponentially increasing productivity, efficiency and profitability! As a member of the first generation raised on a PC in the early 80’s I’m still not convinced. As a matter of fact, I’ve had days in which I was absolutely certain that the PC, Internet, and hand held were not only unproductive, but they were evil beings with no other purpose than to make my life miserable.

In spite of the pain that technology has caused almost everyone at one point or another, there is no escaping the
fact that technology has become an integral part of our life, and an essential part of a successful small business.

Throughout my career in the IT industry, in both the corporate and small business worlds, I’ve accumulated a number of strategies to economically optimize the benefit and minimize the risk of technology for small offices/home offices.

The upcoming posts are my strategies, keep in mind your situation may require additional consideration, but overall I believe that most small businesses can benefit from these basic strategies.

Part 1: Data Loss is Inevitable!

The point here is the mindset, not the scientific validity of this statement (I’d put money on it though). No matter
how nice of dual-core 64bit PC and 20″ wide format LCD display, they are worthless to your business without the data. The data is the life of your business and it’s what you need to protect like a newborn babe.

Easy inexpensive ways to protect your data on a PC:

1. Have two identical synchronized hard drives. This way if one drive fails, you can simply make the second drive your primary drive and boot to it, not losing a step. Ideally the second hard drive should be identical in make and model to your primary drive.

There are two ways to do this:

  1. Mirroring. You can purchase a PC with RAID 1 (RAID stands for Redundant Array of Independent Disks) capabilities, make sure it’s “hardware RAID 1,” or buy a hardware RAID controller to install in your existing PC. This is the best solution but it will require some technical capabilities to install and is a bit more expensive
    than the next option.
  2. Automated Hard drive duplication. Same basic concept as RAID except you buy software that automatically
    duplicates your primary drive to your secondary drive per the schedule you set. The risk you run is losing
    the data between replications, but this risk can be minimized by employing one of the other backup tactics on this page.

I utilize the software duplication option for my personal home office system. I’ve used Casper XP for a number of years and have been extremely pleased. I set it to replicate my primary drive every night so every morning I always have a second identical bootable copy of my primary drive in case disaster should strike.

Next weeks post: Segregating data


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