IT Service Desk Update

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Back It Up!

One of the most important steps you can take to protect your data is to back it up.

No system is completely secure – there is always a chance that something will happen to destroy your data. Information on your computer could be lost if the hard drive fails. The typical lifespan of a hard drive is about four years. There is variety of unexpected ways that your data can be lost such as viruses, software or hardware failure, the loss or theft of your computer, power surges, accidental deletion, file corruption, etc. Your electronic files, digital photographs, e-mail correspondence and calendar items should always be backed up as often as you feel necessary and kept in a secure location. Consider creating multiple backups to prevent a situation when you lose both computer and a back up drive. The more points of backup the less likelihood of complete failure.

There are a number of ways to back up your data. Each way comes with its own set of advantages and disadvantages. Choose type of data storage that works best for your needs.

External Hard Drives: This option works best for backing up large amounts of data or even the entire computer. Should your computer get infected or damaged, you will be able to restore the image of the backed up file systems and return to a recent, stable state of your computer. External hard drives are the cheapest and widely used resource for backup storage. The disadvantage is that most are made from laptop or desktop hard drives and contain moving parts that can easily be damaged when moved around. Learn more about external hard drives.

Flash Drives: Flash drives are available in a variety of sizes; some very small and portable, some are large. The larger USB drives are more reliable option for backing up your data. However, the smaller thumb or flash drives can easily be attached to key chains or placed in to pockets and transported anywhere. They work as a temporary storage of data and generally not recommended for long term storage. Saving your files on a flash drive as simple as dragging and dropping them onto the flash drive icon or drive letter of your device under “Computer.”

CDs and DVDs: Backups on CDs and DVDs are compact, short term reliable and transportable, which makes them very popular. In most cases, a single CD is enough to store large amount of data, however saving data to a CD or DVD for long-term storage is not a good option due to the possible damage like scratches and exposure to high temperatures, humidity, and light. If you plan to store data longer than a few years, it is recommended that you keep your backup on an external hard drive. Here are some links that provide instructions on how to back up files on CDs/DVDs:

Online Storage: Using a third party online backup service is becoming very popular. Before choosing such company, read online reviews about their services. A third party service is especially popular for backing up your personal data, such as your digital photo or music collection. Online storage is a good enough alternative if you don’t have an external drive. The limitation of this choice is that the use of online storage requires an Internet connection to access files and can be limited by the speed of your Internet connection.

Below are instructions on how to back up and restore your data depending on operating system:

You can also learn more about how to use File History and Time Machine on – an online software, creative, and business skills development resource. All Marshall students and employees have a free access to

Ask any IT Service Desk professional and they will tell you that the number one error when people do a backup is that they forget to double check what files are actually being backed up. Take a few minutes to see that the folders and files you want and need backed up are indeed included in the external hard drive or flash drive and not just a shortcut to them. Always check to see if your chosen online backup software is actually backing up all the files you want. If you do an automated backup, check through the software to make sure it’s there from time to time.