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The Need for Backup Part 1 By Kevin J. Vella

Posted Wednesday, February 23, 2005

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The Need for Backup

By Kevin J. Vella

Public Relations Manager

Uniblue Systems

I really hope that what you are going to read in the next few lines has never happened to you. It was a Sunday, Sunday the 23rd November 2003 at 4 p.m. to be precise. I was in my final months of Graduate Business School, working on a paper due the following week. Also, two chapters of my research project were ready and stashed on my hard drive – no hard copies, just bits and bytes created over a three months. I was punching away at my keyboard when all of a sudden, my notebook slowed dramatically. I started closing down open applications in the hope of speeding up my machine. I was not too worried though as this had happened to me before. My fix was the usual reboot. While my machine was rebooting I obliviously went to fix myself a sandwich. When I returned to my desk, I saw a black screen with a one short phrase: “drive C not present, retry, ignore, abort?” Naturally, I clicked retry. Seconds after the screen went black. I felt an eeriness seeping through my innards. I tried rebooting again. White words, blank screen, panic. Reboot again and again. My mind, glued up. I spent the next ten hours playing with this blessed machine. The next day, I took the hard drive to her office to try taking an image of the blessed device. The result: nothing, except anger, loss and regret.

I lost 2.5 Gigabytes – two years worth of assignments, documents, lecture notes and articles. On top of that, the notebook that I was using was the same one I used at work. On it I also had stored four years worth of work documents, brochures, customer databases, emails, email addresses, marketing plans, competitive information, and much more. Nothing was backed up and hardly little was printed.

Why didn’t I back up? I honestly thought that disaster happens to other people. I thought of backup as a tedious procedure to take all the files on one drive and individually stick them onto floppies or on some other storage device. I firmly believed that my hard drive would never die on me while I was studying. After this episode, I did however buy several USB drives and a CD Burner. I also spent a fortune in CDs to store the individual files I created after 11.22.

Most people and, sadly enough, most businesses, only react to disaster after the damage is done. This is “OK” because, at least, they are doing something to prevent future attacks. However, can you imagine if I were to put a price tag on the data I lost, the time I wasted in trying to recover the data, the products I bought, the time my colleagues spent helping, the time and money spent to build the customer database? I put in the region of $50,000 to $75,000 including lost potential short-term revenues for my company.

My strategy for preventing disaster was seriously flawed. True, you must save and save again however imaging a hard drive in its native format onto a number of media is not a long-term solution. There are better ways of doing it. Backup software allows you to take all your data and compress it into an archive that is small enough to be handled on the least amount of storage devices. My method is expensive and extremely time consuming because there is my physical and constant input while backup software essentially does everything on its own.

I hope I have raised an urgency rather than mere awareness to the importance of backing up. Over the coming weeks, I will cover two other important aspects – the need for a planned backup strategy (if you have a business) and the features that you have to look out for if you want an all-round robust backup solution.

Ironically, since then I have changed jobs and am now working for Uniblue Systems, the makers of WinBackup 2.0 (to be released on February 24th). This is how seriously I am taking backing up!