Thursday 1 October 2009

Backup or C***up?

As you continue to use Wessex Premier you accumulate data in the form of database records. Because we're using this program in the real world these records have a real importance to our businesses. In fact we would definitely have problems if the records suddenly disappeared. At the very least we would have to re-input all the moulding records and as for reconstructing the work ticket records - well, it doesn't bear imagining!

When the program was originally released there was the usual menu option to copy the database file to somewhere and a recommendation in the Help section to do this at least once a week. With 20/20 hindsight this was hugely optimistic.

Although computers and more specifically hard drives have become far more reliable over the years - them can still fail suddenly. In fact many take the view that once a hard drive is 4-5 years old you are on borrowed time.
So, what's the answer?
Of course, there are lots of answers (you knew that was coming didn't you?) and the trick is to find one that suits you.

In the (good?) old days of MSDOS you just got a bunch of floppy disks and copied the whole system onto them. With the coming of Windows that became unrealistic and just backing up (or not) your documents became the norm. With the greater reliability it was (is) very easy to let things slide and not take any precautions at all. Of course, as in other areas of life - take no precautions and you'll eventually get caught out!

After a couple of phone calls from framers telling me their computers had died, was there any way to get back their data? And no, they hadn't taken any copies! Well, I started to wonder how to lessen the worry and let the computer do the work.
The answer I came up with was to get the program to copy the database file to a specified location every time it was shut down (in most framing shops this means at the end of each day). Simple, eh? Of course it requires a bit of thought as to where the file is to be copied. The easiest being a USB flash drive permanently plugged in, or else a second hard drive in the computer (a network place should also be possible, though I haven't tried it). What you don't want to do is to copy the file to the same hard drive, because if that fails it takes your backed up file down too.

There are some points to beware of however, one is that USB flash drives can and do fail - so make sure you have a spare. The other is bit more complicated - suppose for some reason the database file you are using with the program becomes corrupted, when you shut the program down the corrupted database will over-write the previously saved good file. Not a good idea, - so if you suspect your database is not right then the correct action is to copy the backed-up file somewhere else before you shut the program down.

So much for protecting the data produced by Wessex Premier, but what about all the other important documents, photos, movies etc. that accumulate on your computer? Well, the obvious thing to do is copy them to an external hard drive (which are pretty cheap nowadays) or use another solution that I've been impressed with - namely backup to an external server. I've used Humyo ( and the software they provide (so if you add or make changes to your documents these are uploaded to their servers straight away). This way, if the house goes up in flames it won't mean the lose of years of accounts, letters, pictures and so on. Another bonus is that I can access the account from any internet-connected computer - surprisingly useful.

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