You snooze, you lose – Data Backups

Computers are temperamental, hard disks ‘self-destruct’, memory chips have trouble remembering. And the irony is, this will always happens an hour before that huge presentation that you have been planning for weeks! Of course there are other unforeseen disasters, such as fire, floods, burglary and lightning hitting buildings. Karma is out to take revenge on your beloved PC!

Being unable to use your computer leaves you in a sticky situation as is. But what is worst, is that the computer may take all of your data on an extended vacation as well! Even after a recovery, you may find that many valuable files have been damaged or missing. I can almost guarantee that this is more or less the same time that you realize that your data has not been backed up recently.

A decent backup plan is a necessity, both for business and personal users. Unfortunately (Mostly due to its mundane nature) it is all too often an area that is left neglected until after a major incident. This following information is all about backups and how to protect your valuable data.

You actually only need to back up data files (Notes, documents, spreadsheets, databases, e-mails…). You can also back up Windows settings and applications, but they are of little to no benefit in a recovery situation: You can rarely just restore a Windows configuration file safely.

One way to determine what to backup is to make a list of your installed applications and determine what files types they create as well as where they are located. For example, for Jot+ Notes you will want to backup your note-files; for Microsoft Word you’ll want to save your .doc files and also any .dot templates you’ve created; a finance program will create a data file with your transactions and account information, etc etc. The product’s website or the documentation received with it, may have an indication as to where the files are stored.

Preferably, data files should be stored in folders separate from their applications. This will greatly simplify the task of identifying which files need to be backed up and will also reduce the risk of missing important files. Windows helps to simplify the matter by creating a ‘My Documents’ folder for users to store personal documents in, now the majority of important files can be grouped together for easier backups.

There are two types of backups, Incremental and Full backups. A full backup is exactly as it sounds. It backs up your data completely. An Incremental only backs up files that have been modified since the last full backup. And that is where the problem is: If one of the incremental backups are problematic, you cannot safely use any of the following incremental backups. With just full backups recovery is somewhat simpler; creating full backups are just much more time and space intensive. However, Storage (Hard Disks etc.) are costing less for more, on a daily basis. This means, firstly, that you are able to purchace a large hard disk to be used as a backup drive. Secondly, you no longer have an excuse for not having a proper backup in place.

We recommend that you always perform a full backup.

All of your data should be backed up at least once a week. Critical data, especially important files that change regularly, should be backed up daily.

After the backup is completed, it needs to be stored somewhere (short-term and long-term). There are many storage options available, from CD (700GB – R89.95 per 25 pack – (4.7GB – R99.95 per 25 pack – disks to USB flash drives(4GB, R319 or 8GB, R629 –, but certain mediums are better for long-term storage. Keep in mind that a CD/DVD Writer is regquired to copy backups to CD/DVD Disks (R299 –

When selecting your weapon of mass storage, you should consider the following criteria:

  1. Robustness – you want a medium that is resistant to damage and accidental erasure.
  2. Longevity – the lifespan of the medium is important, and should be at least 5 years.
  3. Compatibility – as technology moves on, will the backup you create today be readable tomorrow? Ideally you want to use a medium that is both hardware and OS neutral, so that a backup you create on Windows XP today can be read, by your great-great-great-grandchildren, on a Linux system in the year 3000…

LPF Systems recommends USB Flash drives or external Hard Disks for backup media for individual file backups.

Lets not forget that in order to backup/recover data properly, a decent software package is a must have.

You should avoid backup software that uses a file format specific to that software, this can greatly restrict the recovery of your data.

A backup application that creates ZIP archives is recommended. The ZIP format is very universal. With software available on almost every system in use as well as many legacy systems as well. It is the standard archiving format used on the Internet. Using the ZIP format means that a backup can be restored using any ZIP-supporting software on any operating system.

Remember that after backing up your data, the backup must be stored in a safe place. Fire-proof safe etc. And if possible then a copy should be kept on another premises as well. The idea is that if your house is hit by a rogue meteor, you are able to recover your data. Good luck with that if the backup medium is buried beneath a lump of space rock! Remember, recovery is only possible is the backup is in a good, solid state. Therefore, remember to test the consistency of the backup file. Also check that individual files can open correctly, without errors, after backing up data.

Backups should be considered as a vital element of a good nights sleep. Your data is your responsibility, take care of it!


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