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Tech Talk with Greg Bailey

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Although some people are used to dealing with a never-ending stream of computer troubles, for the most part they are relatively stable machines.

Any complications you might have are for the most part minor, and while in some cases they may not be easily fixed, the computer is still usable. Sometimes, however, there can be much larger complications which can result in partial or complete loss of data. There is a simple way to minimize the negative effects of this scenario, simply keep backups.

Let me say this right off the bat: you should always have a backup of any important files. If losing a file would cause you a great deal of inconvenience, there is no reason to take the risk of a single copy of that file being lost. A backup is not the file on the same computer the original file is on with a different name. All this will accomplish is that you will lose two files instead of one if you lose the data on that computer (if you have multiple hard drives this isn’t as much as an issue, but there’s still a possibility something could happen to the computer as a whole instead of just the hard drive).

Instead of keeping the backup file in the same space as the original, put the file onto a CD or flash drive. As long as you take proper care of the storage item, there is almost no chance of losing the information stored on it. With this, if you lose the original file on your computer for whatever reason, you can just put the storage item into your computer and get the backup file. Make sure that whatever caused you to lose the original data is fixed, or you might end up having to do this a second time, or the storage item might even be corrupted.

Alternatively, you can host any important files online. There are various services online that allow users free file storage (there are size limits, but for text documents or pictures there shouldn't be a problem). Some of them, such as Dropbox, offer additional services such as detecting changes made to your original file and saving them to the backup stored online, as well as a revision history that lets you access any previous versions of the file. Simply e-mailing the file to yourself and saving the email will ensure that a backup of the file exists somewhere you can easily access it.

So what should you backup?

Obviously, important files are first priority, but I would recommend backing up anything that you would miss if it were gone.

For the most part, programs on your computer can be reinstalled, so losing them isn’t as big a crisis as losing your photo album. It’s all about making your worst-case scenario as bearable as possible. Instead of being out of luck should you lose the entirety of your data, do everything you can to make it just an inconvenience instead of a catastrophe.

This article is part of a series devoted to Internet security, and learning how to keep you and your information safe. Any questions, requests for clarifications, or comments can be sent to gregbailey9@ gmail.com. Greg Bailey is a Computer Science major at UCR.

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