In an Ideal World You Wouldn't Have to Back-Up
But we don't live in an ideal world.

By Howie Fenton

It this were an ideal world all computers would be linked to a server somewhere with high speed cables. All files would be transferred automatically and invisibly every night and backed up to tape automatically. Every hard disk would have automatic diagnostic tools and virus software running in the background monitoring, diagnosing and fixing problems as they develop.

System software would be able to fit on a floppy disk. Even if a hard disk crashed it would be simple to start up from a floppy disk, connect another hard drive to the machine, copy the system and all the programs, because in a perfect world you have site licenses for everything. Finally, you would pull the files from the server. Even from the worst disaster you would be up and running in one hour.

But in the real world things are different. Even if you have back-ups of important work, a crash can inconvenience staff for months as you search for the unique extensions, printer drivers and fonts that were in the system, not to mention the unique filters for Photoshop or different extensions for XPress.

How do we cope in this imperfect world? The simple answer is neurotically. Make back-ups of everything, that includes files, programs and operating systems. One way to do that is to attach a removable hard disk to each computer. These days you can buy inexpensive SyQuest or Bernoulli drives for less then $400.

First Priority

Obviously the most important items to back-up are your work files. Overnight backups are the best solutions but most of us donŐt have that luxury. One alternative is a back-up program that automatically backs up changed files either at the end of the day or the beginning of the day. We think that early morning back-ups are preferable. It becomes part of the start-up procedure.

When you come in to begin the day the back-up program is automatically launched and automatically backs up any files that have changed. If this is when you get your coffee or chat with colleagues then no time is lost as you back-up. In contrast, if you have to rush out the door as many of us often do then we don't skip the back-up because we are tight on time.

Second Priority

Often overlooked in the back-up strategies is your operating system. This is overlooked until you experience a devastating crash in which you lose the files in your system folder. You might be surprised to learn how much the important information is squirreled away inside your system folder. For example, BBS and network preferences and passwords may be saved in some hidden prefereces folder.


A third or last priority for back-ups are your applications. Now you may think that backing up programs is crazy since you already have all the program disks. But there are two problems in reloading programs from original disks. First you have to find them. In some organizations that are in some distance room under lock and key.

If you crash during of hours you may not have access rights. Even if a problem occurs during work hours you may to find the person with the key encourage them to let you in, and find the serial number of your package , which could take you 20 minutes. Then it could take you another 20 minutes to install and decompress the application.

In contrast, if you stored the application and system files for that application on a removable disks such as a SyQuest or Bernoulli you cold copy the files to the hard disk and be up and running in 10 minutes.

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