Purpose – Backup Options & Computing Habits for Offices

Target Audience – Employees/Colleagues and Owners of Small/Medium Sized Businesses

This setup is highly efficient if you have a maximum of 3 computers, more than that I recommend that you use a server based setup for better productivity.

The past 3 days have been horrific for me never have I felt computers could be so complicated, well not actually computers to be blamed here but I had my most frustrating time. The job at hand – Backup the Data! What’s the big deal you may ask; yeah right I said the same to myself and decided to go to office and take the backup of the 3 machines there, who knew I would feel like the traffic policeman trying to make order in chaos.

Computers keep developing hard ware faults which cause disruption in work and even hard disks keep failing which cause a lot of problems; when 1 tries to recover the data it is not properly organized after that which results in more confusion and multiple copies.

Small/Medium offices normally face this problem I suppose; whenever a machine goes kaput the contents of the HDD are backed up in a folder named ‘sales c data’ & ‘sales d data’ then copied to the other machine. Now when a backup of this machine is taken this ‘sales c data’ & ‘sales d data’ is also backed up so now we have 2 copies of the same thing not to forget the names of the folders. If that’s not enough the same thing is copied back to the machine which went kaput after its in working condition, now there are 3 copies out of which the first and 2nd copy are not updated/deleted who cares the employees wont do it (some may but that’s a rarity). If that’s not enough a backup of this machine which is now working correctly but went kaput is again taken after some weeks which results in a 4th copy!!!

Pretty confusing right; now you had to read this I had to deal with this.

What to do now so many copies all have different sizes but have similar files. First get rid of the multiple backup copies. Use a software called SyncToy for doing this. After this is done now lets see what are the different options Windows has for taking backup of our data (trust me if it weren’t for Windows I would have definitely broken 1 monitor and the freaking mouse that was clicking twice when I clicked once)

backup-option-table

The most important step to ensure data safety is to make multiple partitions and divide the partitions based on your data. Also make 1 separate partition and label it as Backup.

So here is how to make sure that you wont loose huge amounts of data and have backups for most of your data:

1. Multiple Partitions

Once multiple copies are deleted 2 partitions other than C: drive to save your work or the data you are currently working on. For example I will take 1 machine as ‘Sales’ & another as ‘Accounts’. Now each of these machines should have atleast 3 drives namely:

  1. C:\ for Windows (Label it as Windows)
  2. D:\ for your work (lets label it Sales or Accounts)
  3. E:\ for taking Backup (label is Backup)

2. Create System Restore Points Manually

Now, make a habit of creating a System Restore Point before installing any new software or a new hardware. A lot of people often face issues after installing a software which changes some registries or conflicts with a hardware or another software. In such cases creating a Restore Point is the best solution. What System Restore basically does is that it will create a Restore Point on a particular date lets say 7th Feb and after you install your new hardware/software and feel that your computer has become itchy you simply pop-in your Windows Boot CD or go to the System Restore Console and Restore your computer back to 7th Feb. What this will do is it will make your computer the way it was on 7th Feb when you created the Restore Point. When you decide to do a System Restore all files that you created after 7th Feb till your computer started its erratic behavior will be lost, so be careful.

A Restore Point is automatically created in the following cases:

  • Restore points are created by Installer packages that use the new Microsoft Software Installer (MSI) technology.
  • Restore points are created by Installer packages that use InstallShield 6.1 Pro and later.
  • Restore points are created when AutoUpdate (AU) installs an update package.
  • Restore points are created when you use System Restore to roll your system back to a different Restore Point. However, if this is done in Safe Mode, a Restore Point will not be created.

Keep making System Restore Points monthly without fail.

More on System Restore

3. Use Windows Backup

Windows Backup as a utility is really very powerful and at the same time very helpful; not only can you select particular files/folders but you can also create backups of system files & system folders – all in 1 file which is of the same size as the total of the individual files/folders put together. It’s a very simple wizard with settings 1 can change to suit his needs. Windows Backup also allows you to setup a scheduler for automatically backing up the data. Now as the whole data is 1 file you can take it in a removable disk and take it where ever u want and unlike System Restore you can extract that data on any machine.

Use Windows Backup to take a backup of System Files every month after you make a new System Restore Point

More on Windows Backup Utility – (this is only the basics there’s a lot more that the utility can do if I do get time I might write a full walk through on it)

4. Briefcase

This is a good utility but I normally don’t recommend this unless you are backing up just 1 folder with a few files; using this to back up too many files causes it to respond slowly and at times over loads the machine.

More on Windows Briefcase

Well that’s that these are the available option 1 has to backup data on windows other than this there are many other third party softwares which I might say are paid and pretty much do the same that all the above do.

Now comes the important part of how to organize the data & back it up:

  1. Create a new Restore Point making sure that there are no software errors happening in the machine.
  2. I will consider 2 machines: Sales & Accounts –

a. Accounts has Tally; new entries are made everyday in Tally for keeping records etc. so what we will do is we will schedule Windows Backup Utility you take a backup of the Tally data folder in C: (or the drive where it is installed) daily at 6 PM.

Note: The Backup file should be stored in Accounts machine but on the Backup partition we created.

b. At the same time the Accounts machine has other documents & mails that are worked upon; as said before these files should be on the Accounts Partition. We will instruct Windows Backup Utility to take a backup of all these folders once a week – say Saturday at 4 PM.

Note: The Backup file should be stored in Accounts machine but on the Backup partition we created.

c. We shall do the same on the Sales machine; the partition where we have all the current data we will take its backup weekly and the files which are daily updated will be backed up daily same time and place

Note: The Backup file should be stored in Sales machine but on the Backup partition we created.

Doing the above results in us having Sales Backup on Sales machine which is automatically updated and this is stored on another partition and Windows is on another partition so incase anything happens to Windows you can easily format the C: drive and re-install Windows with your current data un-affected. Same goes for Accounts.

We shall now go a step further, we will now copy the contents of the Backup Partition on Sales to the Backup partition of Accounts and vice versa. So, now we have the backup of Sales & Accounts on both machines; incase any HDD fails the data is there with us on the other machine.

That’s not it; get yourself a portable Hard-Disk; id recommend a Western Digital or make 1 using a laptop HDD and a Transcend casing.

Plug in the Portable HDD; here we shall not backup the single backup files created by Windows Backup Utility but we will directly copy all the folders from the Accounts Partition on Accounts and Sales Partition from Sales – Do this also weekly or fortnightly.

To recap:

  1. Make separate Partitions.
  2. Create System Restore Points.
  3. Take Backup of System Files using Windows Backup Utility.
  4. Schedule a Backup of files daily/weekly depending upon frequency of changes.
  5. Make copies of this backup on another machine.
  6. Make copies of the folders/files on a portable device.

Well this is just a way of how you can bring order in chaos and follow a set pattern to backup your data to avoid confusion and work disruption incase of machine or hard disk failure.

In the words of Steve Jobs: “Because we want you backing up”

PS: This is not restricted to XP or Vista even Windows 2000 has the Windows Backup Utility but System Restore is I guess XP upwards.