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Arun Marballi
WATCH OUT AS STORM SEASON GETS INTO GEAR: BEST METHODS TO BACK UP FILES
By ARUN MARBALLI

Hurricane season is here. And with it has come all the associated anxiety a consequence of the past two years of highly active tropical mayhem, disruption and destruction. Many corporations have gone from thinking apologetically of disaster recovery as a half-hearted initiative carried out on the eve of an impending hurricane to a yearlong endeavor to guarantee that information and data-processing systems are adequately backed up and fully recoverable at an alternate location to keep the business from grinding to a halt.

Although the needs of a business, when it comes to recovering information after disasters, appear to be far more urgent compared to individual needs, have we ever stopped to think that we as individuals stand to lose a lot more in relative terms than a typical business would because as individuals we have fewer resources at our disposal. Hence, we tend to be less resilient than businesses when it comes to disaster recovery?

How then do we prepare ourselves for disasters that could damage or destroy our computers the same computers that often hold our important files, family pictures and downloaded music?

Buying insurance merely covers the cost of replacing the hardware and software but not the data stored on it and insurance very rarely covers the intangible cost and inconvenience of lost paper-based documents. The most important aspect of planning for contingencies is to ensure that all of our information is safe, portable and easily accessible. The key word in this statement is ALL.

Unfortunately a number of our important documents are on paper and paper is neither safe nor portable in disaster situations. One option for dealing with this is to scan all important paper documents into a digital format and then include the scanned document files in our data backup plans. It also is vital that the data backup be stored at a location away from the computer that has been backed up. Businesses typically store their disaster recovery data backups in a vault located in another city; the thinking being that the disaster is not likely to strike both locations at the same time.

Now, on a personal basis, finding an off-site storage location in a different city is not practical. So, it is imperative that the backed up data be portable and be stored in a fireproof and waterproof box. Such boxes are available at the local Wal-Mart or office supply store and are always a great investment.

Now that we have touched upon the importance of having electronic backups of ALL our irreplaceable documents and files, we should examine the best method for carrying out a backup. The simplest method is to copy all the digital files onto a backup medium.

We have numerous options for backup media. An external hard-drive probably provides the largest storage capacity but it is not portable. On the other hand, using a USB Flash Drive provides maximum portability but storage capacity may be limited although it is possible to get a Flash Drive that can hold over One giga-byte of data. Another advantage of using a Flash Drive is that many of them have security password protection software embedded on them that enables a modicum of fortification in the event of loss or theft.

Yet another backup medium leverages on the increasing level of storage space provided without charge by major Internet players such as Google and Yahoo. Using this method automatically provides us with an off-site location that is probably situated in another part of the country. The caveat here is that the data stored on servers belonging to Google or Yahoo may be accessible to strangers and is certainly not within our control. Another danger is that if our account is not kept active, the data stored could be deleted.

Finally, regardless of how or where we store our disaster recovery backups, it is imperative that we act and the time to act is now way before disaster is imminent. This way we will always be prepared when the time comes.

Arun Marballi has worked in the Information Technology arena for more than 20 years with extensive experience in software development, process design and network/workstation management. For comments, questions, tips or suggestions, e-mail amarballi@hotmail.com.

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