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Why you should back up your Computer

by Richard Lee

April 2015

updated December 2019

In this blog I discuss about an often overlooked aspect of maintaining a computer - backing up files. Why is there a need to back up files? Well there are several reasons why this should be done regularly. I will give some key reasons for backing up data.

· hardware failure

· power outage/power surge

· user error

· software error

· loss of equipment

· malware attack

Hardware failure - this can be due to a sub systems failure such as system board error, memory fault, hard drive failure amongst other things. Any failure of a computer sub system can render the computer unusable until the sub system failure is fixed. It can also mean that any data may be lost if not already backed up. For example a failure of the graphics sub system would render the system unusable but your data should still be intact. But a hard drive failure could render your data inaccessible.

Power outage / power surge - mains voltage is subject to power fluctuations which can have an adverse effect on your computer if not properly protected. A power surge could cause a failure in the power supply and/or system board. A power outage as the name suggests could mean data corruption or data lost if not already saved to disk.

User error - all too often data is accidentally erased. Providing you haven't already

emptied the recycle bin, your data might still be retrievable. However for ultimate protection backing up your files ensure you can still recover from a "user error".

Software error - many commercial programs have thousands of lines of code. Sometimes the software can "crash" due to an interfacing issue or possible bug in the code causing you to lose data or data which was not already saved.

Loss of equipment - this can be through being misplaced or through theft of your computer. If you haven't already backed up your files it may be gone forever unless

you can recreate it. Even so this entails time and effort without a backup at hand.

Malware attack - some types of viruses target data destruction, while other try to

gather sensitive data. The latest threat called Ransomware goes even further.

You data is encrypted or scrambled and to access it you need to pay the ransomware author a fee to get the unlocking code.

This is just another reason to back up your files.

This covers most of the likely scenarios that can cause data loss. It should already be clear that having a back up of your files at hand certainly beats having to re-create the data should the worse happen. For businesses it could mean the difference between staying in business or going bust.

Even if you could re-create your data think of what that would entail.

Whats each hour of downtime going to cost your business?

One often overlooked area for back ups is emails. If you’re using POP3 web based email such as Big Pond, iiNet, NetSpace, Gmail and similar others you should be ok. This is because your emails are stored with your Email Service Provider (ESP). This is sometimes also your Internet Service Provider (ISP).

However if you use Outlook or (other third party email program) for your emails you might want to check (with your ESP) whether you’ve got back ups of your emails. If not you’ll want to make sure you are backing them up especially if you’re running a business.

What about data stored in the cloud?

Well they are under the control of your cloud service provider (CSP). They are supposed to be backing up all the data on your behalf. However it is still a good idea to have back ups of these. Just in case there’s an issue.

There have been cases in the past where the CSP has been hacked and services and/or data compromised.

If you’re using cloud as a back up destination I would advice using strong encryption

to avoid any eavesdropping of your data.

And ensure you also have local back up copies of your data available – or back up of a back up! Any interruption to your cloud back up at a critical time would be the same as not having backed up at all.

However for most businesses cloud would only be a practical option if you’ve got fast internet speeds. If you’re still using ADSL1 it could be too slow for your back up needs. The main issue will be the slow upload speeds (typically this is less than 1Mbps for ADSL1 ).

And the thing is this: don’t wait until disaster strikes for you to take action!

Do it now while your data is still intact and can be backed up.

For disaster can strike at any time with little to no warning at all.

In the next blog I discuss about what needs to be be backed up and how to back up

your files.

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