Technology Double Shot!

A Double Shot of Technology Information Every Tuesday

This Week's Barista: Matt Lipstein

January 26, 2016

This could be the most important double-shot you will ever read. It's longer than our usual issue, but the we believe it's important enough to share.

First Shot: Why you should Back Up your Data

One thing I've observed over the 14 years I've been working with technology in schools is that nothing causes more personal havoc than when someone loses their data. Whether it's a set of Word documents, a batch of irreplaceable photos or the whole-shebang, data loss is a frustrating and sometimes painful experience. I've literally seen people break down in tears.

Back in the day the biggest threat to your data was a faulty hard-drive. Technology writer John Gruber captured this threat well in 2010:

"Every hard drive in the world will eventually fail. Assume that yours are all on the cusp of failure at all times. It’s good to be spooked about how long your hard drives will last."

While hard-drives have gotten more stable over time, online threats to your data have gotten substantially more sophisticated. Just two weeks ago our tech-team spent two days unlocking some important encrypted files that were locked by an offending program. (Great job team!)

St. Andrew's is not immune. Here at school our helpdesk techs commonly troubleshoot faculty and staff laptops that are infected with some troublesome program, and on average we see at least one fried hard-drive a month.

The first question our intrepid helpdesk techs always ask is: "Have you recently backed up your data?"

Data loss is 100% preventable if you back up your data

Files and folders that live locally only on your computer are at the greatest risk of loss. The question isn't IF you'll lose your data, but WHEN. Below are a few different approaches of how to backup your data. What follows is not meant to be an exhaustive list, but rather what we feel are the best options.

Second Shot: How to Back up your data

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Our Recommendation: Google Drive

Each faculty and staff member has access to Google Drive, which provides two methods of protecting your data.

First: any document you create in Drive is stored in the cloud (read: it doesn't live on your computer so it's inherently safe from hard-drive failures and viruses,etc.). So every time you start a Google Doc, Sheet or Slideshow, you know the data will be safe.

Second: your Google Drive can also act as a "dropbox" where you can store files in this same cloud. It functions in a similar way to your personal folder on the network. More good news, since we are a school, you have UNLIMITED space to store documents. Think about that - if you wanted to move EVERY file on your laptop to Google Drive, you could.

To import your files into Drive, open Google Drive in your web-browser and then simply drag in your files or folders. You could also create folders in your Google Drive to house these documents. Instructions on how to import items to Drive are here.

Dropbox is a program very similar to Google Drive. The key difference is it only gives you about 2GB of space. If you want more, you'll have to pay for it (remember, Google Drive gives you unlimited space).

If you want to use Dropbox, you would create an account, and install Dropbox on your laptop. This will put a folder on your computer which will sync with a cloud replica of that same folder which you can access anywhere.

Here is a dated, but accurate video simply explaining how Dropbox works.

External Harddrive

Alternatively, you could purchase an external harddrive where you can backup your documents. You would simply connect this to your computer, and then manually copy files and folders onto the external drive.

The drawbacks here are:

  1. It's a manual process of selecting and moving files and folders
  2. It's not automated - meaning you have to remember to periodically do it!
  3. It's not cloud accessible from any device with an Internet connection
  4. Your still storing items on another hard drive (see the quote above in the first-shot about the fragility of harddrives)

Even still, you may want to backup your stuff to an external harddrive, if only as a redundant copy.

USB Drive

Backing up your stuff to a USB harddrive has all the same limitations of using an external harddrive. But comparatively this is a less expensive and more portable solution.

Seriously, go backup your data! Email for assistance.

See you next Tuesday for the next Double Shot. Now go backup your data!!!