Backup - Practical advice for rural businesses.

How often do you backup your PC? How do I do it?

Backups. We all know we should do them but how many of us actually do? It can be a tiresome job and a real pain. Often rural people and businesses have limited internet connectivity and online backups can be a complete nightmare. Here are a few tips to help you backup your data and keep it simple.

Organise your data. This should be a given but how many of us have our data scattered around the place on our computers? If you can keep all your data located under a single folder or directory in a tree like structure then when it comes time to backup you'll know where everything is. In Windows a good starting place for this is the 'My Documents' folder, alternately you can always create another folder structure in another location. Just make sure you use it for all your data.

Buy a portable hard drive. One of these little things is the simplest way to backup your data. It may not be the best and ultra safest way when compared to some online backup offerings but it is quick and easy and at least you have another copy of your data on hand. If your data is organised in one folder as described above then a backup can consist of a 'drag and drop' to the portable hard drive of your data folder.

Always keep a few of your older backups too, just in case. You can do this by just renaming the folder on you USB thumbdrive to something like backup-folder-02062011 which means backup from the 2 June 2011.

Store your backup somewhere else. Once you've got your backup, what then? Where do you keep it? Having your portable hard drive with all its backed up data sitting on your computer desk is better than no backup at all but what happens if disaster strikes? You've probably lost it all. If you can store your backup off site somewhere then you can remove 'complete data loss' from your disaster scenario. Make sure where you store your portable hard drive is dry and dust free though. I store mine in wrapped in a couple of plastic supermarket bags in my workshop. Buy a plastic lunch box, wrap your hard drive in a couple of plastic bags and stick on a shelf in the wool shed.

Don't forget your business software. Now you've backed up your data and found a place to store it you should turn your attention to the software that you or your business uses on a day to day basis. Software like your accounting software, stock management software etc. This can be as easy as making a copy of original CD's or DVD's and storing them with your offsite backup. The difficulty arises when you have no media that the software came on, perhaps you bought the software online or it was installed by someone else. There are a couple of things you can do, you can create a complete image of the computers hard drive, this is ideal. Alternately you can copy the files and directories that your software uses, often this works but sometimes you may miss an important file that may stop the application from working when you copy it back.

Compress your data if using an online service. This can slice a large amount of time of the process, especially for those dial-up users out there. By compressing your data you can reduce the size by up to 90% for mostly text type data, although if you have a mixture of data i.e. Word documents and spreadsheets etc it'll probably be more in the region of 20% - 40%. Still a large saving in the amount of data you'll be pushing over the internet. A good, free compression program I like to use is 7zip. But there others out there.

You can always contact us if you like some help with your backup needs or want to discuss ways to improve your current process.

Tips and hints