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Where do I back up?

The nature of what you’re backing up and how much if it you have will determine the most appropriate place.   Remember, backing up your data is about creating another copy of data that protects you from loss of the original.  It does you no good to save your data to a thumb drive or CD, and then lose the only copy of your data. Below are some options for backing up your data.

Caution!

Files that contain sensitive or personally identifiable information which belong to any member of our community (e.g. Social Security Numbers, credit card numbers, and Electronic Protected Health Information/HIPAA information),  should never be stored on removable media (CDs, thumb drives, external hard drives, etc).

If a home computer is set to sync with a cloud service (e.g. Google Drive, Drop Box), sensitive data should never be stored in the cloud service.  In short, sensitive information should never be stored on a home computer.

  1. Employee Storage Server (ESS)

In almost all cases the best place for you to store your Office Documents (Word, Excel, PowerPoint, etc) as well as PDFs is going to be on ESS.  Your home share (H: drive on Windows or users volume on a Mac) is a server resource which provides you with 3 GB of storage.  This will hold tons of spreadsheets, presentations and other documents.  Depending on the nature of the files, your department share on ESS (M: on Windows) may also be a good place to store files that your department or team may need. The key thing to know about storing items on ESS is that it is backed up automatically by ITS.  If you save items there and work out of your ESS share you never have to worry about losing those files as ITS provides multiple levels of backup for those items.  

In most cases of data loss, people work out of their local documents folders or out of their desktop folders.  This is a common practice, but one which can leave you vulnerable to data loss should anything happen to your computer.  We often hear, “I like to save things on my desktop so that they’re easier to find,” or “I keep my working copies on my desktop, and then save things to ESS later.” Let me tell you, that later never happens when you want it to, or right before your hard drive goes belly up!  If you can get into the habit of saving your items to ESS by default, you’ll be that much farther ahead. 

For road warriors, it can be acceptable to move a copy of a file locally if you’re not planning on having access to ESS while you’re away, but if you start with a backed up copy on ESS the worst that you’re out are the changes you made while you were away from campus.  Even then, there are ways to back things up while you’re away.

  1. Academic Server (Recently replaced the Software and MSS servers)

The Academic Server is primarily used by faculty and students, allowing storage of course related project files.  Like ESS, the Academic server is backed up automatically by ITS so no intervention is necessary on your part if you save the files there to start.

Use of the Academic server starts with a conversation with a member of ITS.

  1. Optical Media

CDs and DVDs aren’t dead yet.  In fact backing things up to optical media is one of the most cost effective storage methods there is.  Burning CDs (700 MB) and DVDs (4.7 GB) of your data is a great way to archive files that you don’t need on a regular basis.  Its generally too cumbersome to work with these days with files that you are constantly changing and moving around, but if you need to save a copy of mostly static data, burning it to disc is a great option.

  1. External Hard disk/Thumb Drive

Thumb drives, pen drives, USB sticks, whatever you call them are today’s equivalent of the floppy drive.  The amount of storage these devices provide is rapidly increasing while the cost continues to come down.  They’re a great option for backing up data that you’re working with frequently, or need rapid access to as flash media is lightning quick.  The things to be conscious of when working with flash drives and external drives is their small size.  It’s not uncommon for people to misplace them or to have them stolen. 

  1. Cloud Services

The rise of the Cloud has given way to a variety of different services for backing up data.  Whether you use a service like DropBox, iCloud, SkyDrive, Google Drive or any of their ilk, the ease of use can be outstanding.  These services typically provide automatic synchronization of files between multiple computers and can serve as a backup method of sorts.  While not expressly designed as file backup services many of us use them as such.  They’re good services for sharing certain files with others or synchronizing files with another computer.  Many of them offer fee subscriptions to increase your quota, bumping up your storage capacity.