Backup checklist - Is your backup doing what you think?

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Backup checklist - Is your backup doing what you think?

Backup data to the cloud


Backup is a bit like an insurance policy - if a disaster occurs you'll need it to deliver on its promises. But will it? Even if you've invested in the best backup technology, if you haven't set it up correctly, you'll be in for a nasty surprise. Here's our step by step guide to check your personal backup system and to correct any issues you discover.

In this article we're covering personal backup - the backup system installed just for your PC, your laptop, your email account etc. We'll be covering other types of backup (shared servers etc) in a subsequent post.

Is anything there?

Using a different computer from your normal day to day computer, check you can access your backup vault, whether that's an online backup, local backup, USB backup, NAS or whatever. If you're not sure how to do this check instructions, manuals, online help, and your previous correspondence (emails etc) for passwords etc. If you're using an online backup account, find the details you were supplied for the website address for your online backup vault. Using the information you've gathered, access your backup system and get it to show you a list of the files.

Is it current?

Now think of your most active work in progress: maybe there's a proposal you're working on, a quotation, a report etc. Open up your backup vault and check that there is a copy of yesterday's document there.

Is it all there?

You'll have valuable information saved in various places on your computer, not just in your working documents folder. Sage stores the accounts information in its own special place, Outlook in another and so on. List all the different apps you use in your day to day work, and check you can see the corresponding files in your backup vault.

Can you recover a document?

You'll need to be careful here: make sure you don't overwrite the current files or settings on your computer. If you are at all in doubt get expert help. Probably the simplest thing to try is to recover a recent small Word or Excel document to a different folder on your computer; don't try anything more complicated like Outlook, Sage or databases. But before you do make a local copy of your current document, just to be safe. Then recover the document to a different folder on your computer, open it and check it's what you expect.

Previous versions?

A "proper" backup system should keep previous versions of documents. Check that you have more than just yesterday's document in your backup vault: that you also have the version before that, and the one before that, etc: a backup for each version you have recently amended.

Deleted documents?

If you accidentally delete a document could you recover it from the backup vault? Think of documents you deleted yesterday, last week, last month - check they're still stored in your backup vault, because:

If you delete a file soon after you create it, some backup systems won't have had time to back it up, and most backup systems will discard deleted files at some stage, in accordance with its "retention policy".

Retention policy?

The backup system's retention policy governs how many previous versions it will retain, and for how long. The system may discard backups of deleted files after three months (which would allow you three months to recover a file you deleted accidentally). The system may discard backups of all but the most recent five revisions of an amended document immediately, and all but the revision of an amended document  after one month. Don't assume that your backup system will keep all revisions of documents forever. Check the online help and manuals to verify that the system's retention policy meets your needs.

Is it separate?

If you're backing up to USB, NAS, or local storage it will offer you some protection, if say you accidentally delete a document, but not for other scenarios such as fire, flood, theft etc. Online backup is now so good and so affordable everyone should use it if only for your most important information.

Prepare for disasters

If a major disaster strikes, a worst case scenario, e.g. if your PCs and laptops have been burned or stolen etc,  make sure you will be able get your passwords, encryption keys, etc; perhaps from another home computer or from your suppliers.

What next?

I hope this has been a useful checklist. I'll be following up with another post covering backup encryption, security, operating systems, cloud services and another for enterprise servers and cluster backups. In the meantime, if you've got better things to do with your time than fiddling with DIY backup solutions, please email our team This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or call on 01344 567990.  if you'd like telanova to take the hassle out of your IT.

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