One of the plusses of having been a tech writer for nearly a decade and a half is that I get to do my I-told-you-so face whenever other people have computer-related emergencies thanks to their own carelessness. But the experience of a colleague last week was a sort of a wake-up call: even when we are meticulous about keeping our documents and other information backed up, there are a few common mistakes we may all be inadvertently guilty of.
Having a single back up
You’re not really properly backed up unless you have adequate redundancy. In computing terms, it basically means having a Plan B. Computing gurus recommend having at least two—three is even better—different kinds of back up. For example, if your primary strategy is to copy your files and other stuff on to an external hard disk, it is imperative you have a secondary fall-back option, such as DVDs, pen drive, memory card or even a cloud-based back up. In fact, a cloud back up is a really good idea because it is an off-site back up—literally, if your house catches fire, is robbed, falls down, or anything else happens that restricts your access, you have a back up at a different location. Actually, one that can be accessed from anywhere.
Not verifying back ups
So, you’ve copied your files and other odds and ends to an external HD, made a secondary back up to DVDs, and are generally feeling very pleased with yourself. Good, you should be. But wait… did you verify your back ups? In plain English, this means to check and see if your files have been properly copied to the back-up location(s) and if they can be accessed from there. If possible, verify your back ups with a different computer.
Incorrectly uploading files to the cloud
This is what happened to my colleague—she thought her files were safe at an online location, but when her computer had to be reformatted, she realised that they had actually not been properly uploaded. If you’re using a desktop application, like the one that comes with Dropbox, make sure the synchronisation is complete every time you add or edit a file.
Accidentally deleting your back up
No, seriously, no laughing. This really happened to a friend, who accidentally deleted GBs worth of data while copying something else. (Fortunately, much of it was retrieved using un-delete software.) In any case, it is very easy for an over-zealous clean-up operation to go wrong, so handle your back-up media with extra care!