Sunday 22 February 2009

Five Steps to Surviving a PC Crash

Read this even if you have not yet encountered a problem with your PC!

I came home last Tuesday, turned the PC on and was confronted with a boot failure that, after further investigation, turned out to be an irretrievable boot disk corruption. I was frustrated of course, but also thankful that I was not going to be one of those companies that cannot recover their data.

Statistics say that 93% of companies that experience data loss for more than ten days file for bankruptcy within one year of the disaster. It was a component failure over 4 years ago that led me to implement some simple steps to permit a faster recovery.

Step 1. Separate data and boot drives

Two drives are better than one in a PC as a failure in one is only half as bad! I implemented a boot disc on which all the programme software was installed and run from, and installed a second hard drive on which to store all my data.

Step 2. Back up frequently to external drives

External USB drives are now relatively cheap for a lot of memory (250Gb to 1Tb or more). I bought two, one to back up each internal drive. Allow for a capacity many times greater than your existing used space for a bit of future proofing.

Backup frequently, weekly if not daily (I use twice a week, minimising potential data loss to a few days).

There are many software options for backing up available, some coming with the external drives themselves or with your operating software. It is very important that the back-up software can create a so called "image" of your boot drive, so that you can recover a functional new boot drive if needed. I use Norton Ghost 14.

Step 3. Have an offsite backup

If fire, flood or theft hit you, then any on-site external backups are likely to be lost with the PC itself! So ensure that you also create separate off-site backups.

If you do not use too many gigabytes of data, you could use some of the internet based systems (some free) or commercial companies providing this service.

Companies with lots of data (for example I have hundreds of Gb of images) will still need to do this with tapes or removable/portable hard drives - the important thing is to update them regularly and store them offsite!

Step 4. Have an additional PC/laptop/notebook so you can still work

I'm still waiting for my repaired and upgraded PC and have found my little eeepc notebook a godsend! I can still e-mail, write documents and letters, even edit photos. This safety machine does not have to be expensive or the highest spec - just able to provide you with a minimum functionality.

Step 5. Cultivate good IT contacts

Theoretically, I'm sufficiently competent to do my own hard drive replacements. However, hit any small snag and it eats up your time!

I received valuable reassurance and advice from good friend Terry Downing of Wisdom Communications over the phone almost immediately after my crash. I was able to delegate the task of bringing my PC back up to speed to the professional hands of David Kilpatrick of iTEXS, this has left me free to continue with my work.

By following these five steps you too can ensure that you will not be one of those individuals or companies that will fai due to irrecoverable data loss. Implement them now.

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