Thursday, January 5, 2012

Saving Private Files

Let's start off the new year right with some sage advice for anyone who regularly uses a computer at home or in the office. We have discussed the need for good passwords and protection against malware. An often overlooked but equally important practice is to make regular backups of all your important stuff.

Perhaps you have an army of technicians devoted to ensuring you never lose one bit of your information on the computer in your office. But have you checked to see what rules or conventions you must follow for them to be able to restore lost files? Have you asked them to bring a document back just to confirm they can do it, and to determine how long it takes? By the way, often their protection only extends to files stored on the network server and not those on your local hard drive.

Of course, at home you will have no such team of experts looking after you. If you don't protect yourself you could lose everything. Whether a natural or unnatural act, if your computer is damaged or destroyed, how will you recover all of your documents, pictures, programs or other information?

The answer is a simple one, and something all of us should regularly do; make copies of the important files on your computer! I know about now many of you are tuning this out thinking nothing like that will never happen to me. Perhaps  you don't have time for this today or you think all your important stuff is "in the cloud" and can't be lost.

All I can say is like the lyric from that Joni Mitchell song Big Yellow Taxi, you don't know what you got till its gone.  So, if you don't want to be singing the blues, invest in a highly reliable, automatic utility to quietly and continuously make sure your important stuff is copied and stored somewhere other than on your main computer.

Most computers come with a free backup program and there are certainly dozens of  products and services you can buy. But you have to configure them properly and occasionally check to see that they are doing the job.

I found one in particular to be outstanding. CrashPlan, from Code42, has been on my desktop machine for well over a year. It was truly simple to set it and forget it. It has been diligently moving copies of all the files in the directories specified to other locations every day without fail.

It was originally installed on a notebook computer, long since wiped out. However, I successfully recovered a file when I needed it from the archive months later. It was every bit as simple as would have been to find the file on the actual notebook. Moving through the windows folder structure, the file was located and simply copied to my current machine.

CrashPlan allows files to be stored in the cloud (where my old notebook files now live), an external drive or other computers on your network. You can even allow your computer to used by others to store their files, fully encrypted and inaccessible to anyone but the owner, of course.

At this point, I have CrashPlan on all my computers which frees me from any concerns about ever losing anything. Using my account, I can recover any file from any computer to any other machine I control. Knowing this has allowed me to sleep very well at night.

Don't wait until your first meltdown to begin using a backup utility. Contact me and I'll arrange a trial of CrashPlan for you.

Captain Joe

Follow me on Twitter @JPuglisiLLC

[Editor's note: Full disclosure; CrashPlan was provided free of charge for evaluation and use.]