ISSUE 447: THE HIGH-TECH OFFICE- May
Backing up computer information is a dull job
but it may be the most important thing you do
Like going to the dentist, we all know
that backing up the data on our computers is something we should do
But, despite that, it's more like Neil Sedaka
never sang: "They say that backing up is hard to do."
Well, I'm going to add my voice to the chorus. You
really ought to have a good backup strategy. And -- here's the hard
part -- do it. Regularly.
If you're using computers for work, think about what
value you place on your data. The hardware and software are
replaceable. But what's the value of your data?
Hard drives crash. (I know. I lost the drive on a
13-month-old notebook -- just past warranty -- a year or so ago.) But
that's not all. Your data is vulnerable to fire. Or theft. Computer
viruses. Your kid dragging all your data to the Trash/Recycle Bin. The
list goes on and on. In the end, the best protection is regular
You know that. But do you do it?
Even with good intentions, it's not always as easy or
convenient as we might like. Windows 95 users, for example, get a free
backup utility included with the operating system. But it's not
installed by default. And it probably shouldn't be -- it's a poor
excuse for a utility. If you've purchased a tape drive or high-capacity
removable drive, however, you probably got backup software with the
Even so, most of this software doesn't make it
convenient to restore your system after a crash. Typically, you have to
re-install Windows 95. Then install the backup software. Finally (an
hour or two after you started), you're ready to restore your system
from the backup. Only to find, perhaps, that your software doesn't
properly restore Win95's vital System Registry.
If you're going to be serious about backups, you
should get serious about backup software. Seagate, better known
for its hard drives, also has a software division -- Seagate
Software. They have a big operation in Vancouver, best known for
Crystal Reports. Their Florida-based Storage Management Group
specializes in backup software. Seagate's Backup Exec comes in a range
of products, for various networks and a range of desktop operating
Seagate's Backup Exec for Windows 95 (now in version
2.0) does a good job of by-
passing most of the obstacles in the way of backing up and restoring
Win 95 systems. It supports a wide range of tape drives, removable
storage, even recordable CDs. It properly reads and restores the System
Registry. Best of all, it allows the user to create an emergency floppy
disk. Booting your system from that disk makes it possible to
completely restore your system, without having to first install Win95
or other software.
Microsoft has recognized the superiority
of this product and a scaled-down version of Backup Exec is going to
ship with Windows 98. Check with the maker at www.seagatesoftware.com.
With the Internet becoming so pervasive, it's not
surprising that Internet-based backup plans are proliferating.
Ontario-based StorageTek Canada (www.bark.net), together
with Calgary's TeleBackup Systems, is offering Internet-based
backup for companies and individuals. The company is hoping that its
service, using its proprietary REX software, will soon be available
from selected Internet Service Providers and others. They've been
joined in an alliance with Vancouver's Reconnaissance Technologies
(www.recon-tech.com), which offers Global Replace, a service
aimed at overnight hardware replacement for notebook-toting busi-
ness travellers. The companies note that an estimated 900,000 notebooks
were stolen or damaged last year and hope that combining backup and
replacement at a monthly price of $49.95 will prove popular.
In an earlier column, I compared backing up to going
to the dentist. Soon after, I was contacted by Vancouver dentist Les
Kallos, but not because he disagreed with the metaphor. Recognizing
the need, he'd started up Teledata Backup Systems (264-1191),
which also offers online backups. Teledata, however, doesn't use the
Internet. Kallos points out that modem connections over the Internet
are almost always slower than connecting directly. Instead of using the
Net, Teledata's customers use backup software that connects directly by
phone to the company's server. This avoids any security problems over
the Internet and maximizes connection speeds. While it's DOS-based, the
software works well under Windows 3.1, 95, or NT and can be set to run
automatically, perhaps every evening. The software even automatically
upgrades itself as new versions become available. The service, aimed at
small business and home users, costs about $30 a month (depending on
If you want to back up your entire, multi-
gigabyte drive, don't even think of using a modem and online service.
Instead, invest in something like a tape drive. Make full backups
regularly and incremental backups of changed files even more regularly.
And test your backups. Few things are more frustrating than needing to
restore a backup and finding the tape is faulty.*