Are you backing up your PC? I ask this question because I received a call recently from an old acquaintance. Jack (not his real name) had a problem that was somewhat urgent - his laptop experienced catastrophic data loss. Here is Jack's story.
Over the years Jack has worked in a number of small to medium-sized businesses. He is an accounting guru with impressive spreadsheet skills. He has been at the table for significant acquisitions and mergers over the years, poring over the numbers and making sense of everything for his employers. Additionally, Jack has put his skills to work helping several small businesses with their finances on the side.
Jack told me his laptop had received some updates over the weekend, and afterwards he could not log into Windows. After lots of time and effort, he finally did get back in, though his Windows profile was now gone. The desktop was nice and clean, as were all of his folders. All of his data was missing. He got some help from a tech-savvy relative before calling me, but my conclusion was the same. The data was simply gone.
"Do you have any backups?", I asked. After a long pause he answered "no". "So how critical is the data" I asked? "Very" was his answer. I ran some disk recovery tools and gave it my best shot, but very little data could be recovered. My advice was that he scour his email inbox and sent items to reconstruct what he could, but I could tell this would only yield a fraction of what he had lost.
What did he lose? Small business financial data. Really important stuff. I could tell it was not a good situation for Jack and his clients, as it occurred in the heart of tax filing season.
So what is the take-home message for you? Clearly, you should back up your data! But how? Here are some suggestions:
- Keep your data in more than one physical place. This is helpful in the event of a disaster. A fire, tornado, flood, or ransomware could destroy two local copies. The cloud makes this very easy and inexpensive.
- Use a backup method that lets you go back in time (versioning). This is helpful in cases where you accidentally delete or corrupt your data and subsequently make backups of the computer containing the same deletions or corruption as the source.
- Back up your data automatically. I have seen too many cases where people relied on thumb drives for backups, but did so infrequently leaving large gaps in the data when recovery was needed.
- Use a backup regimen that notifies you upon failed or successful backups. You really need to know if it is working
- Test your backups periodically. I know of cases where people dutifully changed their backup media every day, only to find out later that the solution wasn't working and had never successfully backed up their data to begin with.
We use a variety of tools to back up servers and computers for our clients. A good solution automatically backs data up locally and to the cloud, keeps archives, and it provides notification that the backup and offsite relication tasks occurred as expected, alerting us when they don't. Our best PC backup solution can even put the entire computer back the way it was prior to a disaster (also known as "bare-metal restore"). This is great in cases where the hard disk fails completely.
If this all sounds a little out of reach, trust your IT professional. Quiz them on strategies and features. If they sound a bit vague or dodgy on any of the features mentioned here, press them to be specific. This is your data after all. It might be spreadsheets and accounting, or maybe family photos and medical history. Whatever the case, it is probably very important to you. Don't leave this to chance!