Computer errors and software failures happen occasionally so it is important to backup your files and documents.
One simple way to backup your files is to copy them to a backup disk. If there are only a few small files a usb drive will work but if you are backing up lots of large files a cd/dvd burner, a flash drive, a second hard drive or tape backup may be needed. You can use a software program to do automate backups or do it manually. A manual backup usually involves dragging the files or folders to the backup disk or tape to create the duplicate backup. There are various methods of automated backup systems including disk imaging which duplicates the entire contents of your disk and incremental backups which duplicates all changes. Backup systems include redundant array of independent disks (RAID), continuous data protection (CDP) and replication.
There are also online backup systems that provide space to store your backup files using the internet or cloud.
Store your backup files in a safe place out of the sun and away from electro-magnetic devices such as speakers and wires with strong electrical currents.
Every file that you create and plan to keep should be backed up. This includes word processing documents, financial information, databases, photos, etc...
Some less obvious files that also need to be backed up are email, Internet Favorites or Bookmarks, and Address Books. Check the help files in your email program on how to back up email. Generally each folder name in your email program is a file containing the individual email messages and copying these files to the backup disk or tape will be sufficient. Software preferences such as customized menus and settings can also be backed up. Check your software's help files to find out where these files are located.
Software companies change the way that files are used as they come up with newer versions. As new versions of your software programs are installed make sure that the new program version can handle the older file format on your backup.
When to backup is an individual choice. A company should have a backup policy which explains how and when data should be backed up. It all depends on how important the information is and how difficult it would be to duplicate it in the event of a system failure. If the information is critical, an automatic backup system that duplicates the documents immediately may be needed. If the files are not critical a weekly backup may be all that is needed. It is impossible to determine when a system failure will occur so it is better be cautious.
It is also a good idea to store a copy of your critical files in another location in the event of a catastrophe.
The backed up data can then be used as an archive, to recover from a system failure or to transfer data to a new computer system. Simply copy the files to the correct folder to restore them. Backup software will have an automatic recovery feature that will restore the backed up file automatically.
Last update: February 6, 2017