The more important the data and the more often they are used, the more regularly they need to be backed-up.
To back-up is to produce a secondary copy of files to store elsewhere, so you can restore the originals in cases of data loss.
Such loss can be caused by malicious hacking and virus infection, hardware, software or storage media failure, accidental changes or deletion of files by colleagues, or unexpected events such as power failure, fires and floods.
To help you decide what to back-up and when, think about what you’d need to restore in the case of loss. Which data are crucial for your work? You may choose to only back-up certain data, or to back-up files you use more regularly than others.
That depends on where you store your data.
IT Services perform regular back-ups of the University’s centrally managed network file servers and shared areas (for those on Windows PCs this is your H: drive and any shared areas such as J: drive).
You are responsible for backing-up:
- Anything on your computer hard drive (i.e. the C: drive or your home filestore);
- Your laptop;
- Your home computer (if used for work);
- Un-networked lab or office computers;
- External storage media (e.g. hard drives, memory sticks and disks).
If you want to double-check whether you have to back-up your files, speak to your local IT support.
IT Services make no charge for reasonable amounts of filestore and backup. If your work requires a very large amount of storage and backup, it is recommended to contact IT Services to discuss your requirements. The best way to do this is to raise a call with the IT Helpdesk under the heading Filestore and Data Recovery.
If your data is stored on a centrally-managed server, you don't need to make back-ups.
If data is stored elsewhere, make two or three back-ups of all important documents and data. One back-up should be stored in a different physical location from the others. Choosing different types of storage media or using media from different manufacturers is also preferable.
The choice of storage media for back-up depends on the quantity and type of data you have. Options include:
- Memory sticks, CD/DVD and remote, online back-up services may be convenient for small amounts of data;
- Hard drives or magnetic tapes may be more appropriate for large volumes or when you need to store data offline for security reasons;
- External hard drives are often the quickest, cheapest and most convenient method.
Back-up software or online services can help manage this process for you. Wikipedia provides a list of free and proprietary back-up software as well as detailing online back-up services. There is a Windows back-up and restore feature and if you’re a Mac user, Apple Time Machine can be set-up to take incremental back-ups automatically.
You should test your back-up at regular intervals to validate its completeness and integrity.
You can test your back-up by comparing the copies against one another to make sure they correspond e.g. by matching file size, dates and checksum / hash tags.
A checksum or hash sum is a unique fingerprint which can be used to ensure that the file or program has not been changed during transfer or storage.
IT Services, Server back up and restore service [WEB, approx. 1 page].
A description of IT Services' server back-up service and why it should be adopted.
UK Data Archive, Backing-up data [WEB, approx. 2 pages].
A concise and useful guide to backing-up data.
The University's IT Services helpdesk are able to provide more advice on the back-up options available to you and your school/college. You can contact them at:
Telephone: 0141 330 4800