OPINION: All the ingredients for a disaster

DURBAN – I think most people are aware of what a “back-up” is, but in my experience, far fewer know why they need one, or if in fact they have one. Computer users typically say things like, “All my stuff is in the cloud, I don’t need a back-up.”

My answer is always “check again”.

Recovery: Let’s look at this from a post-disaster view. You’ve arrived at work, or just put the kids to bed, and sit down in front of your PC, ready to work. You switch it on as you’ve done hundreds of times before, but today it spits out “Failed to boot. Please insert bootable device and press any key to try again, or press Esc to restart”. Try as you may, the computer refuses to go any further. This usually means the computer’s hard drive is faulty – sometimes known as a hard-drive crash. Hard drive crashes are so common I’d expect every computer to have one eventually as the hard drive is one of the most actively used components.

When a hard drive crashes, unless you have another computer available to use immediately, the best-case scenario is you’ll be up and running in a few hours – usually after replacing the failed drive and either re-installing Windows and all your programs, updates, settings and data (painful) or restoring your last full system back-up or “system image” (not painless, but much nicer). The worst-case scenario is that you’ll need to start over, manually replacing whatever data was on your PC. You may never recover all your work. Companies have gone out of business as a result of problems like this.

Safe: For most people, the primary reason for creating a back-up is to make sure they don’t lose anything important, like documents, music and photos. Once they have this covered, they feel “safe”. If the back-up they think they have is not working correctly, or turns out to not work the way they assume it does, that’s a big problem. I deal with loads of users who THINK they are safe, but on closer investigation, they are not. Common problems include back-ups that are out of date, incomplete or empty, back-ups that need passwords to unlock them and the guy with the password left two years ago, back-ups that got damaged by the same virus that destroyed the data you backed up, back-ups that haven’t run for 18 months, and back-ups that person A thought person B was doing, when person B thought person C was doing them, and person C thought person A was doing them, but person A never knew. You get the picture.

Disaster: Even the best-laid back-up plans have holes in them. It is a rare back-up that always works, always delivers what’s needed quickly, doesn’t cost the earth and is always up to date.

I started today’s column thinking I’d have back-ups covered in about 600 words, but I’ve realised it’s too important to cover in just one day. But I hope I’ve made you think about your own back-up plans. For those of you with small businesses and PCs at home, I’ll have advice plus a back-up tool you can consider, next week. If you need urgent advice, email me at online@intech.co.za

– THE MERCURY 

107499295 - OPINION: All the ingredients for a disaster

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