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Backing Up and Restore
  • Backing Up Your Data.

    In this technical age we live in we have come to spend a large portion of our awake time on a computer whether it be at work or at home. This means that a lot of valuable, useful and irreplaceable information is stored on our PCs which we trust will "never" break down. A large majority of users have either no form of backing up their information or if they do this is only carried out on a random/when we remember to period of time. Too often I have had people come to me to try and recover data from a crashed disk or cd or flash disk. With special costly software this is sometimes possible but takes a lot of time and can prove very expensive. It is far simpler to introduce a regular backup system. Ideally backing up should be done in 2 parts:

    when the pc is new and the operating system and main software such as office, antivirus etc have been loaded one should create an image of the system which is like a photograph of everything at that moment in time. In the event of a complete crash or virus attack or even theft/loss of your whole pc the image can be recalled from where it is stored. Windows 7 has built-in function. Select Start – Control Panel – Backup your computer (under the System and Security group) and then select create a system image in the left pane and follow the instructions. Note that the other option in the left pane is to create a system repair disk if you do not have one which is a bootable cd disk required to restore a system image in the event of a crash/virus attack/hdd replacement etc. During testing it took 36 minutes to create and save a system image of 11,8 GB to the server and some days later it took 22 minutes to restore the same image basically comprising windows, office 2007, lotus notes, Symantec endpoint protection and a few other small programs.A number of programs were investigated and it would appear that the best free one is Paragon Backup and Recovery as this also can create a recovery cd for restoring the image.    During testing it took 48 minutes to create and save a system image of 18,5 GB to the server and some days later it took 51 minutes to restore the same image to the test pc. This can be a great saving of time compared to trying to re-install windows and all the other software and one does not have to spend time reactivating and registering windows and the other software included in the image. This image file differs from normal backup program files in that the image is written byte-for-byte to the storage media where it is saved and not as a number of files. The image should be saved to an external hard disk or directly on to a server. When restoring system images it will be necessary to connect the laptop or desktop machine to the server via a cat5 network cable since bootable recovery disks will not normally contain the necessary drivers to give a wireless connection.

  • now that the operating system and software have been taken care of we need to start a regular saving of the everyday data one generates on the pc such as documents, music, photos, email etc. There are a great deal of software packages "out there" advertising backup programs. Two of the best I have worked with are Nero backup (it comes with the Nero CD writing software you usually get with a cd/dvd writer) and Comodo Backup (free from look under the products tab). Basically one performs an initial "full" backup where you choose which files and folders to include and the destination (server/external hard-disk/cd/dvd to send the files to. These files van be security protected with a password and can be compressed if required or just written as plain files that can be opened and read. One can then set-up a schedule of "full" or "accumulative" or "incremental" backups to be performed regularly at a time convenient to all concerned such as late at night when the network is not busy. If you are setting this up on a laptop then you should make sure you choose a time that the laptop is going to be switched on and connected to the network or external hard disk. A "full" backup is space intensive and as implied makes copies of everything selected each time it runs. An "incremental" backup will backup only those files that have changed since the last backup of any type ie full or incremental. For example if one performed these daily following a full backup on friday, mondays backup will comprise only those files changed/created since friday, tuesdays backup will comprise only those files created/changed since monday and so on. The disadvantage with this method is that when performing a full restore one has to start with the last full backup first followed by each of the incremental backups in their correct order and if any of these backup files is damaged then the restore will be incomplete. A"differential" backup backs up all files that have changed since the last full backup. The advantage is that one requires the original full backup and only the last differential backup to restore everything. The disadvantage is that each consecutive differential backup gets larger in size since the previous one depending on how much has been changed from the original.

  • An alternative which I am presently trying out is a sort of combination of the two above methods in a free program from the same company called comodo time machine. Once installed this program can be set up to take regular snap-shots of your system including operating system, registry (the real guts that runs your computer), user settings and data and makes a copy of them all. When booting up your computer the first thing you see is the comodo time machine console that can allow you to recover from a virus attack/bad software installation etc and to go back to any of the previously saved snap shots. This is different to the windows restore in that it all documents, photos and other data as well as software created/installed after that snapshot will not be there after recovery. "Software Developers and testers can easily restore test systems to the default configuration after each deployment without the need to manually uninstall each application. Home users can even let the kids run amok on the family PC for an afternoon and be safe in the knowledge that any damage can be instantly undone and all files recovered." So far I have been pleasantly surprised especially since this software is completely free.


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