Frequently Asked Questions about Backing Up Your Data
- Why should I back up data on my computer?
- What should I back up?
- How should I back up my data?
- How frequently should I back up my data?
- What else can I do to prevent data loss other than backing up my data?
Why should I back up data on my computer?
Information or data on your computer could be lost, if:
- The hard drive in your computer fails
- The data on your computer is corrupted for a variety of reasons
- Your computer is lost or stolen
- Your computer is in a fire or other environmental event
- A virus infects your computer and deletes or corrupts your files
Consider the inconvenience of having to recreate all of the information stored on your computer - how much of it is important to your academic or professional career - and how much of it might actually be irreplaceable. Back to List
What should I back up?
Back up any information that is important to you. Consider not only the documents folders where you store the files you create, but also your Web browser bookmarks, contacts databases, and files stored on your desktop.
- Students should consider making a daily back up of assignments they are working on.
- Faculty and staff may find it helpful to make a back up copy of files they are creating as they work on them.
It's generally not practical or appropriate to back up copies of programs you have installed, but you should always make sure you keep the installation disks or files. This way, you will be able to reinstall programs that you own, if your computer is reimaged or replaced.
- Note: OIT can easily provide all of the standard programs preinstalled on AU-owned computers, (such as Lotus Notes, Windows, Datatel UI, and Microsoft Office), so you only need to retain the installation disks for programs you or someone in your office purchased.
How should I back up my data?
There are a number of ways to back up your data. They generally fall into three categories: backing up to the network, backing up to an external disk or drive, and using a third party back up service.
Backing up to the network: This is the recommended way to back up important files. All faculty, staff, and students have a personal G drive where they can store files not intended to be shared with others. The G drive is a secure location, accessible from on or off campus using the my.american.edu portal or the virtual private network (VPN). Additionally, each department has its own I drive where faculty and staff can store files that are intended for collaboration or sharing with colleagues. Both of these drives are good locations for you to store copies of important files after making changes to them.
The G and I drives are recommended back up locations for a variety of reasons:
- Access to these drives is restricted to authorized accounts.
- All the data on these drives is backed up to tape daily.
- These drives are available from anywhere on the Internet.
- You can back up to the network by saving or copying files to your G or I drive manually, or you can use a tool like Microsoft SyncToy to make sure the files on the network are the most up to date version.
- Tip for Students: At the end of each day that you have worked on an assignment, consider uploading the document to your G drive using the my.american.edu portal, or e-mailing a copy of the file to yourself at your AU-sponsored Gmail account. This way, the current version will be backed up in a secure location, and also available to you whether you are on or off campus.
Backing up to an external disk or drive: There are a variety of types of external drives, such as CD or DVD burners, which can write your data to a disk for back up. Additionally, USB drives come in a variety of sizes; some very small and portable, some too big to carry in your backpack every day. The larger USB drives are a generally reliable option for backing up your data. However, the smaller thumb or flash drives are only recommended for temporary storage of data, such as carrying information from home to campus for a presentation. These drives fail frequently and are not recommended for long term storage.
Using a third party back up service: A quick Web search for "Internet back up service" will provide you with a number of results, both companies providing the service as well as articles reviewing these services. Third party solutions are not recommended for AU data, as there are strict requirements for storing sensitive data and your G and I drives are already secured and backed up daily. However, you may find a third party service useful for backing up your personal data, such as your digital photo or music collection.
How frequently should I back up my data?
You should back up your data as soon as you have created enough new files or changes to existing files that it would be difficult to recreate them, if lost. OIT recommends backing up individual files daily if you are saving to the local drive of your computer. Back to List
What else can I do to prevent data loss other than backing up my data?
Many AU students, faculty, and staff choose laptops because of their mobility, but they are also more vulnerable to loss or theft. AU Public Safety offers the following suggestions to protect your computer equipment:
- Never leave your laptop unattended, even for a minute.
- Use a cable lock mechanism to secure your laptop to an immobile piece of furniture.
- Install laptop recovery software, such as Absolute LoJack for Laptops.
- Talk to your home insurance representative about covering your laptop through your homeowner's policy.
- Always lock your room, office, or car when you leave.
- Never leave valuables in plain view.