Friday, December 22, 2006

Can you un-backup your data?

Most of us have learned (the hard way) to back up our critcial computer data regularly. Whether you choose floppy, zip, CD, USB or another method, make sure you can recover files from a backup too.

If you use a program that creates a backup set, you won’t be able to recover just the one file you need. You’ll have to revert back all the files in the set. And, you'll have to use the same program you used to create the backup. That could spell trouble.

If you have old, old backups that you need, you should modernize the backup media over time. For example, if your great American novel is backed up on a 5-1/4 inch floppy disk, it’s not likely you’ll be able to find a computer with that drive size. The same is becoming true with 3-1/2 inch floppy drives. Most new computers now ship without a floppy drive. They've become obsolete, in favor of more portable USB thumb drives.

CDs can become unreliable - as though the data fades right off. The coating on CD’s does not last forever. For long-term storage they should be kept upright in cases, away from light sources, heat and humidity.

Popular and inexpensive USB thumb drives have at least a ten year data retention ablity. And we hope USB ports will be around that long. This year they are the #1 stocking stuffer for tech fans of all ages.

Even file formats can be a problem. Files created in very, very old versions of Quicken, Word, and obsolute programs will not easily convert to new programs - so if your computer records go back more than ten years, keep upgrading them to new software and new backup devices over time.

So, as you make a year-end backup, make a note in 2007 to review your backup media and make sure you aren't backing up your data to an unreachable void.