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Data Backups: Spend Time Now to Save Money Later

The enormity of the problem is clear: More than two million hits are returned when a search for “data recovery” is run through the Google Internet search engine. Recovering lost data is a popular subject—with good reason.

Computer viruses are the main culprit behind the booming data recovery business. Clearly, there has been a rise in the number of damaging programs out there, and people are scurrying for answers when their data gets hosed.

Yet it is not only computer viruses that can bring stored data to its knees. Defective hard drives and incorrect software settings can also cost many files their digital lives. Bringing those files back to life is not necessarily a complicated matter. The magic word is “backup”.

Although most computer users know that making regular backups of their important files is the best safeguard against catastrophe, backing up remains as unpopular as ever.

Sure, it takes time to back up an entire hard drive with, let’s say, 40 gigabytes of data on it. Yet any number of specialty backup programs cut the time for a weekly backup by only saving those files that have been created or modified since the last backup. Modern operating systems such as Windows XP or 2000 offer this as a standard feature.

For those who really want to get their computer back up and running in no time after a crash, experts recommend burning a mirror image of the hard drive onto a CD-ROM, DVD or second hard drive.

Popular imaging programs that perform this task include PowerQuest’s DriveImage (www.powerquest.com) and Symantec’s Norton Ghost (www.symantec.com).

Still, backup programs can’t tell what’s important to the user. Computer users who find that backing up takes too long can always back up their essential files manually. You can make doing this a part of your routine at the end of each day.

In order to expedite the process, it is recommended saving all personal files within one folder. For most Windows operating systems, a My Documents folder is automatically created on your C drive.
This means that no matter how many levels of folders there are within the central folder, all will be copied automatically when the central folder is copied onto a Zip disk or burned onto a CD-ROM.

Even for those users who don’t take the step of backing up their work, there’s no need to go running for a professional at the first sign of trouble. Sometimes, a simple trip to the Recycling Bin can turn up files that you thought you lost forever.

The “undelete” command, present in the old MS-DOS and still offered by helper programs such as Symantec’s Norton Utilities or Ontrack’s System Suite 4.0 (www.ontrack.com) can often bring back accidentally deleted files without further fuss.

However, viruses are not always satisfied with deleting just one file. Some reformat your entire hard drive.

Specialty data recovery tools, such as EasyRecover from Ontrack, can bring back data lost through reformatting.

To ensure that viruses never get the chance to cause such damage in the first place, computer experts recommend the preventative step of using virus scanners.

There are numerous commercial antivirus programs with advanced functions, such as the ability to update themselves over the Internet against the newest viruses. Security experts recommend caution when dealing with e-mail messages and so-called active websites.

For more complicated recovery efforts, the sky is the limit, normally taking at least two weeks. The only good news: Data recovery services boast a success rate of around 85 to 90 per cent, meaning that the missing report or dissertation may not really be gone for good.

Do the backups on the regular basis, or the alternative could be an expensive consultation with a data recovery specialist. It costs around $500 just to get started with a professional data recovery service.

Making a back-up to a Zip disk is one smart way to avoid the trauma of data loss.

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