One of the first things I did when I took over as Technology Coordinator for my last school was to start putting together a backup plan. We eventually had nightly incremental backups and weekly full backups. We had several weekly backups at any given time. We backed up to disk, tape and CD. Some backups were stored offsite. Others in a large fire safe.
And the other thing we did was to regularly test the backup media so that we knew they could be read. We were able to recover data for students, faculty and administrators from our backups on a number of occasions. Surprisingly we had the most calls for data recovery from administrators but let’s not get into that right now.
Apparently they didn’t do such a great job of backups in Alaska. Someone formatted the wrong two disks (main and backup) and only then did they find out that the backup tapes were unreadable. A lot of time and money went into recovering the data from paper. It is a good thing they hadn’t thrown away the paper.
I’ve almost always bordered on paranoid about my data. Even when I am working on systems that do automatic system backups I tend to keep a private backup of my own data. This has served me well on several occasions. It always amazes me when people have head crashes or other system problems and lose large amounts of data. Don’t they backup? Apparently not. A number of times I have brought hardware in for repair and the technicians ask me about the data. When I tell them not to worry and that I have it all backed up they are almost always surprised. I guess most people don’t react that way.
I’m not sure where in the curriculum backing up computer data should be taught but I am pretty convinced that it must be taught somewhere. You’d like to think that the need for backups would be obvious but it doesn’t appear to be. Or people think they will get to it later. But later often comes too late. I’d rather see students learn this from the mistakes of others and not from their own mistakes. How about you?