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Information Technology

Tips for Backups

Making regular backups of your files is an often overlooked, yet critically important part of keeping your data safe and secure. Information Technology handles back up of campus servers such as LCFILES (also known as the J/H drive). Individual staff and faculty are responsible for making and keeping backups of files saved on mobile devices, desktop and laptop computers, and Google Drive. The following are guidelines to help you develop a backup strategy. If you would like assistance, stop by or contact the Service Desk (Watzek 166, x7225 or itservice@lclark.edu) to discuss your options. We’re happy to help you come up with a plan. Once you have a backup routine in place, you will breathe easier knowing that your data is safe! Data recovery services are very expensive, time consuming, and may not recover 100% of your data. Life research is more valuable than the cost of backup methods.

Step 1:  Decide What To Backup

  • Your entire computer. Both Windows and MacOS have built in backup utilities that allow you to automatically make and update a complete copy of your computer on an external drive. This type of backup eliminates the risk of missed files or settings and allows you to quickly restore your complete system after a hardware failure. Best practice is to pair this method with another method that stores files remotely to guard against theft or loss of the external drive. Notably, a full backup often requires a dedicated external drive that cannot be used for another purpose.

  • A specific folder. This could be your computer user folder which typically contains your documents, photos, music and other settings or a designated folder containing work you want to save. Some backup methods only work with a specific folder.

Step 2:  Decide Where To Backup

  • External hard drives are economical, convenient and allow for large amounts of storage and work well with automated backup software. They are vulnerable to theft, damage or viruses and should not be your only backup method. Use an encrypted drive if data security is a concern. We strongly recommend you consider an external hard drive as part of your backup strategy.
  • Flash drives are portable and well suited for manual backup of current work. They are less durable than external drives, easily lost, and not appropriate for complete system recovery. Use an encrypted drive if data security is a concern.
  • Online backup or cloud storage can be a cost effective way to protect large personal files such as photos, videos, and music from catastrophic loss. Be sure to carefully review the privacy and security policies and practices of any service before you upload personal information you consider confidential. In most cases these are not good options for confidential LC files.

Cloud storage is often provided as part of your service for data stored on phones and other mobile devices. Unlimited storage is included in your LC Google Drive account and it’s easy to set up folder synchronization with the Google Drive App. There are also several services that, for a reasonable fee, will backup your entire system online. Online storage is excellent at protecting your data from loss due to theft or another disaster, however, recovery is slower and more cumbersome than from a flash or external hard drive. When combined with the speed and convenience of an external hard drive, an online service can provide a complete backup solution. However, if you are storing institutional data, network storage is often a better choice as it offers more security and robust options for data recovery when something goes wrong.

  • Network Storage. Confidential LC data should be backed up to LCFILES or similar LC hosted server. Most departments regularly use the Depts folder (also known as the J drive) on LCFILES to store confidential and operational files. If you wish to request personal space in the User area of LCFILES (also known as the H drive), contact the Service Desk (x7225 or itservice@lclark.edu). Network storage on LCFILES provides the best combination of accessibility and availability for files. Unlike Google Drive, files shared on LCFILES are not deleted when a student or employee leaves the college.

LCFILES is suitable for private backup of 10 GB or more. It is not appropriate for backing up complete systems or user profiles. If you have a business need to store a large quantity of files, contact itservice@lclark.edu to discuss options for increasing your storage quota. Files are not stored in an encrypted format, however, data saved on the network is not at risk if your computer is stolen. LC hosted servers are centrally backed up (i.e. not your responsibility) regularly through snapshots taken at the following times and kept until replaced: previous two Mondays at 12:01am, previous four nights at 12:01am, and everyday at 8am, Noon, 4pm, and 10pm.  There is no additional cost for this service.

  • Specialized Needs. If you have specialized storage needs (extremely large quantities of data, high availability of data, quick recovery time, etc.), Information Technology can assist in exploring backup options that can meet your needs and minimize cost. Please contact the Service Desk at x7225 or itservice@lclark.edu if you wish to arrange for a consultation.

Step 3: Decide How To Backup

We recommend you mix and match the methods below to create a comprehensive strategy that allows you to recover quickly from events such as hard drive failures but can also protect against losses due to viruses, fire or theft. A common approach to is to mix cloud or network based storage with external storage.

Manual Backup

This is the least expensive method, but for it to be effective, you must be methodical. Set a schedule and stick with it - maybe it’s the end of each day, work period or when you hit a milestone in your project. Simply save a copy of your work to network storage, a flash drive, or an external hard drive. This is a great method to use when you want to make an archive of your work as it existed when you finished it.

Folder Synchronization

You can download programs such as Google Drive that create a folder on your computer, phone or tablet and then automatically publish changes made on one device both to a folder stored online as well as to other connected devices. However, automatic synchronization can backfire if you accidentally delete files in one location and do not notice right away. Such services may not be able to restore files accidentally deleted or overwritten. For long term or archival storage, you should use another method.

Scheduled Backup Software

The built-in backup tools in modern versions of Windows and Mac OS are designed to automatically backup your data, usually to an attached external hard drive, on a schedule. These methods work with strategies that have you backing up user profiles, specific folders or your complete system. These programs make it easy to “set and forget” about backup. However, like any automated process they can stop working unexpectedly. Be sure to check your backups periodically to make sure the data you want saved is actually being backed up.

Considerations:  

  • Protect your data by carefully reviewing the privacy and security policies and practices any online service before you upload personal information you consider confidential.

  • Be sure to follow institutional guidelines for data storage and security for information classified as sensitive or protected.

  • Automated processes fail. Be sure to regularly check to make sure your backup system is working as you expect.

  • Data recovery services are very expensive and often don’t recover the structure you used to catalog your files. Recreating your organizational structure after a disaster can be very time consuming.

  • Complete system backup and recovery using online services can often take days. Hedge your bets by keeping a local backup on hand to quickly recover from data loss due to system upgrades or hardware failures.

For more information: 

“Apple.” Use Time Machine to Back up or Restore Your Mac. Apple, n.d. Web. 28 June 2016. <https://support.apple.com/en-us/HT201250>.

“Backup Utilities News, Videos, Reviews and Gossip.” Lifehacker. Lifehacker, n.d. Web. 28 June 2016. <http://lifehacker.com/tag/backup-utilities>.

“Data Encryption on Removable Media Guideline.” Information Security and Policy. University of California - Berkeley, 2016. Web. 28 June 2016. <https://security.berkeley.edu/data-encryption-removable-media-guideline>

Pinola, Melanie. “How to Back Up Your Computer Automatically with Windows 10’s Built-in Tools.” Lifehacker. Lifehacker, 04 Mar. 2016. Web. 28 June 2016. <http://lifehacker.com/how-to-back-up-your-computer-automatically-with-windows-1762867473>.