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The Importance of Back Ups

Defining the Value of Information Security

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The Importance of Back Ups

By Amy Quarterman

How do you prepare to protect your home in the event of a disaster? Most homeowners and businesses know to keep insurance policies up to date and to purchase a structure that is not only built with strong materials and enduring construction, but also that is in a location conducive to the purposes of that structure.

What about the contents of your home or business? In the event of a flood or fire, would you be able to replace those items or the value of those items sufficiently? All of these same issues need to be addressed with regard to your computer before a disaster actually occurs.

As a computer user, just like a home owner, you want to be able to not only be able to replace your physical machine, but to be able to replace the contents or data stored on that machine. This means backing up or copying your data files and systems to external sources. In other words, any files, folders, databases, e-mails, or other important information that you store on your computer should backed up onto a CD or diskette or other removable media on a regular basis and stored in a location other than where your computer is.

According to David Ehinger, IT Security Manager of Rolls Royce North America, "The importance of keeping current back ups of your data is disaster recovery. Servers do break; power outages and fires do occur. I recommend that home users back up important data on a regular basis based on how important it is to them and based on how difficult it would be to reproduce."

Debby Butts, Manager of Information Services at Clarian Health, agrees. "Without copies of critical files, you can't recreate them in case of a file or system disruption." Her method for frequency of backing up varies slightly from David's. "Frequency of backups is dictated by frequency of updates. If files are updated daily, they should be copied daily. If they are updated weekly, they should be copied weekly. Restoration of critical files should be tested periodically to ensure that the files could be restored if needed."

So, the key to healthy and appropriate back ups may be subjective (based on the specific data, how often it is updated, and how easily it can be reproduced), but all agree it is imperative.

Another important fact to keep in mind is that not only can natural disasters in our homes (such as fires or tornadoes) destroy our home computers, but also system failures and file corruption can. We've all experienced the heartache of writing up a large e-mail or Word document when all of the sudden in the middle of typing your machine locks up for no reason and won't work without completely shutting down. Say goodbye to that file or e-mail!

Tips for keeping data updated, backed-up, and stored appropriately:

Save files and e-mails frequently while writing them, so unnecessary data isn't lost in the event of a system failure or disaster.

Make copies of all critical files or data onto diskettes or other removable media.

Take the removable media to a different location for storage.

Chose the frequency of backing up files based on criticality of data, difficulty of reproduction of data, and appropriate "return on investment" for time spent backing up based on value of information.

Check that the copies can be restored properly on your machine by retrieving them from the external location and re-entering them into your computer. Do this periodically to verify your back-up methodology is correct.

From: Indiana Information Security Web -