Always floss your teeth. Don’t run with sharp objects. Eat your vegetables. Don’t get a Daisy Red Rider BB Gun because you will shoot your eye out.1 And always back up your computer.
These statements are part of the conventional wisdom we have heard our whole lives and yet often ignore. I’m not saying that you don’t floss your teeth, but I bet some of us don’t always back up the data on our computers.
But as more and more of us move to paperless offices, and more and more of our critical data is stored on our computers, we have to remember to back up our data. In fact, we should have redundant backup systems. Back in 2006 I knew I was supposed to back up my data, and had an external hard drive plugged into the USB slot on my computer, but I just did not do it. Then the hard drive failed. I lost a lot of data, and it was an expensive and time-wasting event in my practice.
Since then I have faithfully backed up the data on all of my computers, both at work and at home. I have redundant backup systems. And, like many things, when you are properly prepared for a disaster, it never happens. I have not had a hard disk crash since 2006, but I am prepared if one does. Is your office prepared for such an eventuality?
I will begin with listing the two major principals for securing your files:
- You must have a system that automatically backs up you data.
- You need both onsite and off-site (cloud) backup.
Onsite backup generally consists is one or two external hard drives connected to your main computer. Or a server, or RAID display. All basically serve the same purpose. I have the following suggestions regarding on-site backup.
- Do not skimp on the quality of your hard drive/server. Check up on the reliability of the hard drive manufacturers. Be aware that there has been a huge consolidation of the industry in the past few years, and there are not as many sources of hard drives as there used to be. One brand that I have heard good things about is Glyph. Not the most well known, but very popular in the music industry. And it has the best warranty I have seen, including two years of basic data recovery. You may know that recovering data from a dead hard drive can cost more than $1,000. The Glyph hard drives are available at Amazon.
- You should have software that automatically backs up your data. The Macs come with software called Time Machine that backs up any changes in your data every hour. I have read that Windows 8 has a utility that continuously backs up your data.
- You should also consider making a bootable clone of your hard drive on a separate hard drive. This will allow you to reboot your computer from an external hard drive and help you get back to business more quickly.
Off-Site Backup = Cloud2
I strongly suggest you have off-site backup. You probably remember stories of Katrina, where lawyers in New Orleans lost all of their files because of the flooding. Paper files are susceptible to flood and fire, as are hard drives stored in your office. I recall a story about an attorney in Alabama who had her computer and hard drives stolen from her office, but because she had used Dropbox to store her files in the Cloud, she was up and running within a day.
I cannot recommend Dropbox highly enough. There are other options available: Box.net, SugarSync are two I can think of, but Dropbox has been very dependable and inexpensive. The first 2 GB are free, and I pay $99 per year for 100 GB of space, more than enough for a sole practitioner. Dropbox automatically syncs with all of your devices on which you have installed Dropbox, so that I can change a document on my work computer and revise it on my iPad. And it operates as a wonderful backup.
I also use another off-site backup called Crashplan, which backs up my system once a week. I can restore my entire hard drive from this service if I ever need to do so. There are several services like Crashplan that you can find using your Google machine (computer). The services generally costs around $50/year. Well worth it.
Do I sound paranoid? Perhaps I am, but if you have ever lost your data, you would be, too. And since in some ways our data is our practice, we cannot afford to be careless with our data.
Don’t play with fire. Don’t run with sharp objects. Back up your data. And floss your teeth.
1. As seen in the best Christmas movie ever made, A Christmas Story.
2. There have been many articles published in this newsletter about the ethical use of the cloud. Please review them if you have concerns.