a-z indexroundtableArticles & Editorialsmarketplacemeet the publisherscontactsearch
Advance Your Case Effectively with the Strategy Analyzer
Distinction between Rating Methodology and Diagnostic Protocol
Getting to YES with UR & IMR
The Client Game: Five Successful Ways to Market Your Firm
Computer Corner: The ABCs of Backing Up


Computer Corner: The ABCs of Backing Up

By Marjory Harris, Esq.

In this series, we explore organizational techniques, software and hardware that will help you clear the mess from your desk, be more productive, and cut office overhead.

This article discusses what everyone knows should be done and so few do: backing up your files. If you are looking for hardware and software for backing up your entire operating system with its myriad tweaked settings, that is for another day.


True Stories

A colleague was vacationing in Hawaii over Valentine's Day weekend. The beach in Maui was so inviting that he decided to wade in while reading his iPhone text messages. Suddenly a wave hit him and he lost his balance, hit a rock and the iPhone went underwater. He never bothered to back up, so he lost all of his contacts, emails, text messages, photos, and apps.

It has happened to all of us, whether with cell phones, lap tops or notebooks, or even our main desktop computers or servers containing years of legal efforts.

I used to clone my hard drive and store it in a safe deposit box. At some point my drive failed, so I rushed to the bank for my backup tape and found the magnets on the vault door had turned my data into garbage. That was years ago. It is so much easier now with our huge drives, inexpensive storage methods, and fast Internet connections.

Computer guru Fred Langa recently wrote a two-part series on backing up for Windows users: Part 1 and Part 2

If you need to back up a Mac, see this and this

Backing up as you work

Back in the dawn of the PC in law offices, I shared space with some lawyers. One day a loud and painful moan assaulted our ears (actually I think it was a four letter expletive): after hours of research and typing a brief, with law books spread all over, some open, some closed, my colleague's computer suddenly crashed and he lost all his work.

This is easy to prevent. Just save the file to the hard drive (“Save As” on File menu) as soon as you start, then hit Ctrl-S every time you type something of substance. This works in all Windows programs. On Macs, use Command-S (the command button looks like a clover).

Hit Ctrl-S every time you type something of substance (or Command-S on a Mac)

Back up automatically

To make sure you backup, automate the process.

Carbonite works on Windows computers and servers and Macs. It the best one of the many I tried. It works in the background, is really easy to use, and I can see if a particular file was backed up because a green dot appears on the file name in Windows Explorer.

Your files are stored in the cloud and accessible on all your computers and smart phones. You can readily browse the backed up files to find what you need. You can retrieve your work from anywhere.

Carbonite has free trials

Make it easy to retrieve data

That old GIGO rule is true: “Garbage in, garbage out.” If files are labeled in some uninformative way, how will you find them on your backup? A folder tree system helps, and so does labeling files sensibly. Avoid labels that are just numbers or letters. How will you know it is Dr. Schmoo's AME report from 1-20-14 if it has some name assigned by your scanner? How about “Schmoo AME 1-20-14”?

Use a folder tree that makes sense:

Even if you feed everything into a document management system, you still need a folder tree with sensible labels. Otherwise, what will you do if you cannot connect to the Internet, or the site crashes, or the database gets corrupted?

If files are labeled in some uninformative way, how will you find them on your backup? Use a folder tree and easily recognizable labels

Back up with more than one method, on more than one media

Media can be any type of drive. The idea is to safeguard data, and if one method or medium fails, you need a backup plan.

My practice is paperless and my computer holds many years of work. I use local backup and Cloud backup, both set to work in the background. I like Carbonite for Cloud storage. For my office I use a Synology DiskStation server that has mirror drives. Every so often I also back up manually to an external drive, but that is probably overkill.

I keep a link under Favorites on Windows Explorer to the Diskstation drive that holds data (backed up from D drive). That way I can retrieve a file quickly, even if the Internet is not working. If I accidentally wrote over an important file, I can get it and earlier versions back quickly.

I also use Dropbox for file syncing and exchange of files too big for email, or that need to be worked on collaboratively. I sync my data files daily to my desktop Dropbox using a free Windows utility called SyncToy and the Task Scheduler that is built into Windows. That way any files I add or alter from my notebook or laptop when away from the office go right to the appropriate folder. Of course, you could work directly in your Dropbox files on your desktop, but my files are all stored on D drive and Dropbox installs under User on C Drive, and all my links involve D drive folders, so I prefer the SyncToy approach. Setting up Task Scheduler to sync automatically each night is easy. See this for instructions.

If one method or medium fails, you need a backup plan

Don't forget to backup your phone, notebook, laptop, or camera!

We all use different devices in the modern digital era and store data that we would hate to lose. Did you forget to ever back up your camera or phone and then have it lost or stolen, along with precious memories that are now willow wisps in your mind instead of beautiful pictures? Lost contacts, notes, your app settings can all be gone in a flash, like my friend whose iPhone was wiped out in the sea at Maui. Read the instructions for your device and regularly back up. If you lost the brochure, just Google the device name and add “backup.”


If you lost the brochure, just Google the device name and add “backup.”
Marjory Harris, Esq.

Marjory Harris began practicing law in 1974 as a defense attorney and later became an applicants' attorney and a certified specialist. She continues to represent injured workers and mentors attorneys on big cases.

Reach Marjory at (888) 858-9882 or email: MHarrisLaw@verizon.net





Quick A-Z Index Search: A | B | C | D | E | F | G | H | I | J | K | L | M | N | O | P | Q | R | S | T | U | V | W | X | Y | Z
Like to contribute? Please send your tips, ideas, A-Z topics or corrections to the editor.