I should have never called this tech month. As if taunting me, my six-year old computer decided that it was going to slow to an absolute crawl, and I decided to bite the bullet and upgrade to a new business-class machine. All of today was spent in my office with my wonderful, wonderful tech support department backing up data, moving it my new machine, and installing updated and new software. Thank you Jim Haupt from http://www.helpdotnowcomputer.com/. It’s good to know that there are reliable professionals with integrity (besides me, of course!) who will still make housecalls.
And I’m not done yet. I can share a bit of what I learned with you here today. The most importantis probably backup, backup, backup. Jim and I talked about the different backup options widely available.
- On-site backup units like those from Seagate can run about $100, but can be super easy to set up. You purchase an external hard drive, which sits next to your computer and automatically makes a copy of files you specify in real time. He also recommended looking into a fire-proof, waterproof unit like ioSafe http://www.hddfiresafe.com/index.php/, especially for businesses, in the $200-$400 range. Cooooool! Remember, some hard drives do auto-backups, and some require you to manage them. I prefer the former.
- Online backups like Carbonite, Mozy, SugarSync, and SOS Online backup offer options that will run you roughly $50 to $100 per year, and offer additional peace of mind. Some, like SugarSync even offer a free account, which is better than nothing, and I know plenty of people who have nothing set up for backups. But Jim says he’s had many instances of clients who couldn’t retrieve data at crunch time. You can read more about these services at http://www.pcmag.com/article2/0,2817,2370803,00.asp And if you are worried about whether it’s safe to save your data off-site, consider this: you are more at risk for fraud when you send the server at your favorite restaurant back to the kitchen with your credit card than when you send encrypted data to a server farm.
- Businesses really need to consider stepping up their backup plan, perhaps with a monitored solution like that offered by Jim’s firm, http://www.helpdotnowcomputer.com/. Not only are backups routine and automatic, backups are reviewed daily to look for imcomplete or problem backups, while tech support, hardware and upgrades are included in the service price, which starts at about $25 per month. I’ve read stats that say more than 50% of businesses with a major data failure go out of business within a year. It’s just too important to not backup your business data.
Once you have a backup solution in place, it’s a good idea to test it from time to time, which means you go to wherever your data is stored and select a small slice of data, such as a file, and try to restore it to a file you’ve created on your home or business computer just for this task. You might name this file something like “BackupRestoreTest,” so that you can actually verify the backed-up data is actually readable.
One more tip along these lines. I learned the hard way a while back that MS Outlook does not backup along with most Microsoft data files, like Word and Excel. You need to surf out to the web and find a neat little utility that MS created to make a backup of your .PST file, which is where your emails live. http://www.microsoft.com/download/en/details.aspx?id=9003 Without this, if your email flakes out or your drive crashes, even if you’ve backed up your “My Documents” files, your email could be gone forever. With this little utility, you’ll have a copy of your email files under “My Documents,” which can easily be restored.
One last thing…if you’ve ever gotten a Word or Excel file that you couldn’t open from someone who has a newer version of those programs, then you need a quick little patch on your software that you can get by going to http://www.microsoft.com/download/en/details.aspx?id=3&WT.mc_id=MSCOM_EN_US_HP_CAROUSEL_121LSUS007870. You’ll never have to ask someone to save a file to your lower version again.
There are a lot of people using online services for everything, including websites, blogs, photo storage and mail, but much of that can and should be backed up as well. If something is really important to you, and you would experience hardship or personal history (like photos) if disaster were to strike, you should probably be asking about backup, and maybe more than one type of backup for the same data.
OK, I know this whole post is basically about insurance, and most of us don’t have enough of that either, but hopefully there are some good resources and vendors here so you’ll get off the fence and make a decision about backing up your personal data. Wish me luck as I go to learn about all the goodies on my new computer!