Have you got a backup plan?

JPCT 150713 Alan Stainer. Photo by Derek Martin
JPCT 150713 Alan Stainer. Photo by Derek Martin

Alan Stainer runs an IT company specialising in technical advice and support and website design, based in the Horsham District. In each column he’ll look at issues affecting computer use.

Sometimes, disaster strikes! You accidentally delete a document and can’t find it in the recycle bin, or something has become corrupted. You might suffer a power cut and lose all your work, or maybe your hard drive has crashed and is beyond repair!

How do you recover from something like that? The simple answer is to back things up and keep your important documents safe.

You can use cloud storage as a way to alleviate some of the worry. If everything is stored on the cloud and your computer dies, then you know it’s safe. All you have to do is find another computer and log in to carry on working.

What happens if you do accidentally delete the wrong file though?

Depending on the cloud storage service, there may be a process you can follow to restore files or there may not.

A better approach is to make your own backups, either manually (copy and paste onto external media) or via a scheduled backup routine. There are many backup solutions available for all computer platforms and you will find that most operating systems have software built in. Ubuntu has Deja Dup, Macs have Time Machine and Windows PCs have Backup and Restore, or File History if you have Windows 8.

So what media should you use?

If you are creating manual backups, then you can use blank CDs, DVDs and BluRay disks. These are good for permanent storage, but obviously your stack of disks will grow over time and you will need to have a good labelling system to keep track of everything on them.

Another option is to use a USB flash drive. These are smaller physically, but larger in capacity than disks and you can easily re-use them again and again.

Finally, you may want to try using an external hard drive. These are the largest in capacity and are well suited to scheduled backups. Be warned though, disks can (rarely) break, so it is advisable to have more than one and rotate them regularly.

Alan Stainer