Reliable Practices for Backing Up Data

Backing up—we all know we should do it, and we all know it’s important. But when that computer with invaluable data unexpectedly dies, all we can do is kick ourselves. Of course, we remain hopeful, taking the fried hard drive from Geek Squad to the IT Help Desk to Tom’s Computer Depot, but the conversations all sound the same:

“Did you back up your content?”

“I mean, I have some of it backed up...” We don’t want to sound irresponsible. “But I definitely would like to be able to get some of it back.”

“Well, there are data recovery services. Trouble is, it’ll run you a few hundred, maybe even a few thousand.”

So reasonable options become limited—and saving that content would have been free had we taken the time to secure it. But there are more convenient ways to back up and protect data than ever before.

Storage Drives

For those who find themselves not only needing to back up their files but also transfer them quickly from computer to computer, there is no greater tool than a storage drive.

Flash drive

These drives are also known as flash drives, thumb drives, or USB drives. A $20 flash drive will typically hold at least 1 gigabyte of data, which can hold hundreds of Microsoft Word documents. They serve the same function as the now obsolete floppy disks, except they hold thousands of times more data, do not crash nearly as often, and simply need a USB port, which virtually all computers support.

Please note: Floppy disks are NOT a reliable backup method. If you have important data saved to floppy disks, transfer it to your computer right now, and if you need your content in a portable medium, please only save to flash drives.

Hard Drive

External hard drives, the most common made by Western Digital or LaCie, are hard drives like the one inside your computer, only portable.These drives may hold anywhere between 250 gigabytes and 2 terabytes (that's 2,000 gigabytes!) of space.

This type of device is most commonly used for transporting large files, such as video, but it’s a viable method of storing any data. Just make sure all files saved to the external hard drive are also saved elsewhere, as external hard drives are just as liable to crash as internal hard drives.

Email it to yourself

Email files to yourself

Web access email accounts (including ECmail) have expanded in size over the last few years and typically hold at least a gigabyte of storage. Gmail currently holds more than six gigabytes of space! If you have no other web space to place files, emailing important documents to yourself is a reasonable method of backing up files.

Burn content to a disc

You can burn more than just music and video to CD/DVDs. Burning your documents and files to a disc is as easy as dragging them into the file directory and clicking burn. On average, CD-Rs hold about 700 megabytes and DVD-Rs hold about 4 gigabytes. Keep the discs in a safe place, so as to not scratch them or damage them, and your content will be as safe as ever.

Burning content to a disc

Use your Pages folder

All Emerson students, faculty, and staff have their own Pages folders. Pages' primary use is for uploading files to the web, but it can be used as a web directory for storing up to 250 megabytes of content and can be accessed from any computer with an Internet connection.

For more information, visit our Guide on Connecting to your Pages Folder »

Use your Cabinet folder (Staff/Faculty only)

Use your Cabinet Folder

Like Pages, Cabinet is a 250 megabyte web space for members of the Emerson community (staff and faculty only), but there are some key differences. It is a local server, available only on Emerson’s network, and backs itself up nightly. So if you are a staff or faculty member who saved a document to Cabinet and then accidentally deleted it, IT could find its last saved state and recover it for you. Or if your hard drive crashed and you saved all your files to Cabinet, they would be secure.

For more information, visit our Guide on Connecting to Connecting to your Cabinet Folder »

Off campus, Cabinet can only be accessed when connected to Emerson’s VPN. We strongly urge every member of our staff and faculty to save all important or valuable content directly to Cabinet!

Use Internet resources

A number of websites are available today that can sync your data to an online, secure server for free! Typically, you will receive a set amount of space at no cost, with the option of more space available to you at a fee. One of the most popular is Dropbox. Dropbox has clients for nearly every platform on the planet, including mobile devices, and combined with a website, your files will always be close at hand.

There’s possibly no safer way to shelter your files. These sites have large servers that back up constantly so your data is always safe. This is a good option if you have content bigger than a standard flash drive or data DVD. Check out this option; it’s worth exploring.