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Jan's Computer Basics:

Storage: Caring for Data

Besides protecting the physical medium you are using to store data, you must also consider what you can do to safeguard the data itself. Even if the disk is kept from physical harm, but the data gets erased, you still have a major problem.

What are the risks?

Here are some risks that you need to protect yourself against. We cannot keep these from occurring. We need a good recovery plan!

So what can you do to safeguard the data on which you rely??

First: A Back Up Plan

The backup plan for your computer should emphasize backing up your data files and do so automatically and frequently. Programs can be repurchased if necessary and reinstalled, but data may be impossible to replace.

A plan that you do not actually use is not a plan at all, so make this as automatic as possible. There are a number of free or inexpensive services that automatically synchronize a backup over the Internet.

If you make copies on CD/DVD or tape or an external drive, you must store those backups somewhere besides in the same room as the computer that you are backing up or even the same building. The same event could wipe out the computer and the backup!

Write protect

This keeps your files from being overwritten with new ones.

Removable media including USB drives:
Look for a tiny write-protect switch on the device.

Hard disks and devices without a switch:

  • Make files Read-Only and/or Hidden to keep them from being overwritten accidentally. This is done by changing the file attributes using whatever system you have for managing files.
  • Assign a password to each file, which can be done with some programs and some USB drives.
  • Encrypt the files. This will require special software and remembering the decryption key.

Backup Copies

Make multiple copies of important data often and store them in different physical locations. How many copies depends on how hard the data will be to replace and how distraught you will be if it is lost.

Kinds of copies:

Hard DiskFlash disk
CDGlobe (representing the Internet )
  • on the same drive but in a different folder
  • on a removable drive
  • on an optical disc
    (CD, DVD, Blu-ray, M-disc)
  • in online storage like OneDrive or Dropbox, or Google Drive
  • included in your normal backup plan

For truly important data, you want to store a physical copy in another physical location.

Online drives will usually synchronize the files that you save to a local folder for that service.

The more important the files are, the more copies in more places you need.


antivirusUse a set of programs that continuously look for an attack by a virus, trojan, or worm .

Computer viruses/trojans/worms are sneaky computer programs that can erase your data and even your whole system. Many are merely annoying and are created as practical jokes. But there are a number of very damaging malware programs out there, plus others that are out to steal your passwords or use your computer to damage or annoy others.

Your computer gets one of these nasties by downloading an infected file from the Internet (sometimes without your knowledge!) or your office network, or by first using a removable disk in an infected computer and then accessing a file on that removable disk with your own computer. This makes it difficult to keep them from spreading.

Once you have disinfected your computer, it can get re-infected from a removable disk that was used between the time you were infected with the malware and when you disinfected it. A number of nasty viruses hide for quite a while before doing their nasty things. So you can infect a lot of your own backups and other disks and spread the infection, all unknowingly, to others.

Run an anti-malware program that actively looks for infections all the time. Don't wait until you have symptoms. A lot of damage can be done before you figure out that you have a problem.