Back up your data - it's as easy as 1, 2, 3

24 May 2010

How often do you make a backup of your critical files? Are you put off by the thought of doing it? Once you understand the basics of backing up, you'll see that it is relatively easy to do, writes Steff Hughes of ICTS.

Simply put, a backup is a copy of the data on your Personal Computer that you make onto another storage medium such as a flash drive, CD, DVD or external hard drive. It is a good idea to keep your backup copy in a fireproof safe in another office, or stored off-site (either at home or using a professional data storage company).

  1. Your first step is to determine which files or folders you need copies of, and how frequently you need to copy them. A good way to determine this is to think about how quickly you could recover from a crash. Taking daily or weekly backups ensures that you can continue working almost immediately after a crash by restoring the information from your latest backup copy. You don't need to back up everything on your hard drive, just what is most important for you to keep for personal or business reasons. For instance, you don't need to back up program files (e.g. Microsoft Office), as they can easily be re-installed from the original disks.

  2. Select where to copy the data. The size of the folders you want to back up and how often you choose to back up will determine the medium you end up using. Sometimes saving a second copy of a particularly important file to your network drive or to a flash disk is good enough. For slightly bigger backups you can use either CDs or DVDs. There are two types of CDs and DVDs: those that are for single use (CD-R and DVD-R) and those that are rewriteable (CD-RW and DVD-RW). The rewriteable options give you more flexibility, as you can use the same disk more than once. Compact and convenient, flash disks offer more storage and are faster than CDs or DVDs.

    If you want something that is fast, robust and portable, with a lot more storage space, then use an external disk drive. They are particularly useful for disaster recovery backups. Depending on the level of recoverability you want and how important the files are, you may also want to write backups of the same information to DVDs, and store them separately from your removable hard disk. The ICTS Acquisition Services Team in the Computer Science Building can advise you on the best storage media to suit your needs.

  3. Choose a backup method to suit the task. Once you have determined what folders you want to back up and how frequently, read our Data backup at UCT article for advice on which method to use, and a step-by-step guide on how to do the actual backup. ( | Desktop Support | Data Management | Data backup at UCT)

Creative Commons License This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.

Please view the republishing articles page for more information.