Data Backup


Skip the Details, Back Up My Data!

If you work at Waterbury and want to back up your data, click here and follow the instrucitons.  If you want to better understand data storage and why you should back up your data, read on.


The Scenario

What if your computer crashes due to a hard drive failure and you lose your important files – the ones you spent hours or days working on and re-use year after year; the important spreadsheets, lesson plans, presentations, and pictures?

Any important files you have should be backed up (it must exist in at least two locations) to reduce the chance of data loss.  If your data only exists in one place, it is likely that you will lose it at some point.   Hard drives can crash and usb drives can become inaccessible.  Even cloud storage is risky – if you get locked out of your Dropbox account or your Google account gets compromised, your data is still at risk.  While the odds of this aren’t as likely as hard drive / usb failure, I still recommend local copies of essential data, in addition to the cloud hosted copy.


Backing Up Your Data

I’ll explain two different methods of data backup:

  1. Periodic backup requires you to periodically* copy files from a primary location to a backup location.  This can be a USB drive, external hard drive, local network storage (like the P: , read below), or internet cloud storage (like dropbox or google drive).  This is a tried and true method of data loss prevention with a very strong dependency on user interaction and good judgement. If a backup is only made every 6 months, there is a reasonable chance of loss of as much as 6 months of data between backups.  Additionally, if some files are backed up but others are overlooked, the overlooked files will not be available for recovery should the need arise.  Another potential issue with this type of backup is that users can easily modify a file on a USB drive, which they normally use as the backup location, and then overwrite the modified file with an older version from the primary location during a subsequent backup.  Thus, designating a primary and backup location and maintaining the association can be very important.
    *how often is dictated by frequency of data change and importance of data
  1. Automatic backup requires much less work, though it is often recommended that a second layer of backup (often periodic) be used on conjunction depending on the value of the data.  Storing your files on local network storage (like the P:, which is covered below) or on Dropbox or Google Drive or another cloud service normally requires no work on your part.  Anyone offering cloud storage will automatically back your data up so that if they have a hardware failure, your data can just be called from another location.  The catch here is that, if your network is down / you have no internet access and cannot use your files.  With network and internet access becoming more and more necessary, down time should be minimal, but it is worth considering.  Another benefit of cloud storage is the convenience of accessing your files from other network computers (for local network storage) or from any computer and often tablets and smartphones, for Dropbox and Google Drive.  One proviso with this type of storage is that you can still accidentally delete files or (sometimes worse) overwrite files.  There are sometimes ways to “get back” old file versions, but there are time constraints and shouldn’t be relied upon.  This is why many people use periodic backups in addition to network/cloud storage.


Keeping your data safe using the ‘P Drive’

The P Drive can be used for either Periodic or Automatic backup.

A great practice is to keep essential work files on your P: (Personal).  If you’ve never seen your ‘P drive’, take a look by clicking ‘My Computer’ (on your Desktop or in your Start Menu), and looking for a drive with your username and / or (P) in the name.  This drive is located on a server downtown and is backed up twice, thus it is very safe.  Two big advantages of storing important files on this drive are that the files can be accessed from any computer on our domain on which you are able to log in AND the data is safe from hard drive failure; which happens.  For example, you can log into a co-worker’s computer  as yourself, go to ‘My Computer’, and your ‘P Drive’ should be accessible.  That makes transporting your files easier in case you need to use someone else’s printer and ensures you can access your files even if your hard drive crashes or computer stops working or something.

The only down side to using the ‘P Drive’ is that a network connection is necessary to maintain access.  If your computer loses its network connection (I know, It happens), you no longer have immediate access to your files.  The good news is that you can go next door, more than likely, and access it from a co-worker’s computer.  If the entire building is down, you will have to wait until the network problem has been addressed.  Additionally, you can’t access your ‘P Drive’ from home.

That said, the ‘P Drive’ is a great tool that may prevent data loss if used as a storage device or backup device.  You can simply start ‘saving to’ that location, or you can manually copy/move files from their existing location

The instructions above can also be used with internet cloud storage, though they usually require access via a website (which is often limited) or the installation of a backup client, which runs on your computer and synchronizes data from a local from to the cloud version of that folder.

(2015-08 Nick Chapman for CTC)