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Backup Your Work

Making regular backups of your work is the most important thing you can do to protect your data.  We provide recommendations for students, faculty, and staff below:

Why should I backup?

Backing up your work provides insurance that you will be able to restore your work from a backup copy if the original is lost due to theft, accident, hardware failure, software bugs, or a computer virus. Your only hope of protection is a good backup!

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What should I backup?

At a minimum, you should backup your most important work and other files that would be difficult to replace (e.g., thesis, final papers, research data, address books, etc). You may also want to backup serial numbers and license codes for personal software, as well as preference files for specific software. If these files are backed up, reinstallation of your operating system and software will be much easier.

Mac and Windows computers store data for each user account in a specific folder. This includes files saved to the desktop, your documents folder, as well as some software preferences. Backing up this folder will preserve much of your user data.

  • On a mac, the user folder is found in /Users/<your_username>
  • On Windows, the profile folder is found in C:/Users/<your_username>

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When should I backup?

You should backup often enough that a hard drive crash wouldn't be a disaster.  Once a week is a common choice, but pick what is right for you. The most important thing is to make it a regular habit, since you can't predict when something will go wrong.

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How should I backup?

You should keep several things in mind when choosing how to backup your important files:

  • Develop a quick and easy backup routine. The faster you can backup your work, the more likely that you'll actually backup your work regularly. It may take some additional effort to plan this routine, but it will pay off.
  • Backup software can be used to back up specific files and folders or even an entire computer. Software built-in to the operating system, such as Time Machine in Mac OS 10.5 Leopard and Backup Utility in Windows 7, XP and Vista may make it easier to implement a backup routine, especially for students. See our recommendations for faculty and staff below.
  • Don't backup your files on the same computer. Instead, backup your files on a separate disk (or disks) and keep them separate from your computer.  There is advice below on selecting backup media.
  • It's most important to have at least one good copy.  But it's even better to keep separate backups in two or more different locations, and to make sure one of them is separate from your computer at all times.

Recommendation for Faculty and Academic Staff

CUS now recommends CrashPlan as an automatic backup system for faculty and staff. Learn all about CrashPlan here!

CrashPlan is backup software that allows Windows, Mac, and Linux computers to automatically back up their data to a central Reed-owned data center.

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Recommendation for Administrative Staff

Administrative Computing Services has the capacity to back up each full-time admin staff member once per week. Our Retrospect server copies files from your computer user account, such as files on the desktop and in the Documents folder. If you have a question about Retrospect backups, or want to request that we back up your data this way, please contact ACS at extension 7600 or acs@reed.edu.

We recommend that you use Portfolio, the administrative file server, to back up your most critical files. Portfolio is secure, stable and backed up nightly. We request that you limit your usage to no more than 1GB of work-related files per person/office.

For users who require backups more frequently than once per week, ACS will provide backup software and an external hard drive. For Mac users, we support a program called SuperDuper!, while we support a built-in program called Backup Utility on the Windows platform. Contact ACS for help finding the best backup solution for your needs.

Reed has recently partnered with a commercial company to enable students to backup their personal computers over the web for a fee. Though this service ("Backblaze") is also available to faculty and staff it is provided for the backup of personal computers only. If you need to backup your Reed-owned computer please contact ACS.

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Recommendation for Students

There are many different storage mediums that provide various degrees of backup protection, portability, and affordability. Choose a method that best meets your needs:

  • Cloud Backup:
    • Data is constantly backed up automatically.
    • Very safe because your backup and your computer are always separate.
    • Unlimited space
    • Requires internet connection
    • Some options to consider purchasing are BackBlaze, CrashPlan, or Carbonite.
    • No guarantees that data will be kept private
    • Sensitive data should be encrypted before backing it up to the cloud (encryption instructions).
  • AFS
    • Free
    • Very safe because your backup and your computer are always separate.
    • Faster than CDs
    • Limited space (1 GB)
    • Requires internet connection
  • A CD (burning instructions)
    • Inexpensive
    • Easy to scratch
    • Once written, harder to rewrite data than USB Thumbdrives and hard drives
    • Slower than the Home Server and hard drives
    • More portable than hard drives
  • USB Thumbdrive/Jumpdrive
    • Relatively inexpensive
    • Faster than CD
    • Can hold less data than CD
    • More portable than hard drives
  • An external hard drive (setup instructions)
    • Relatively expensive
    • Faster than CD
    • Holds more data than CD and USB Thumbdrive
    • Less portable than CD and USB Thumbdrive
  • Don't forget to save a document frequently while working on it.
  • Make frequent backups.
  • Don't work directly off backup copies, especially those on the Home Server. Instead, copy files to your desktop first to work on them, and then copy them back when you’re finished.
  • Be very careful when copying files between one medium and another because you could accidentally overwrite the newer file.
  • Backup to multiple locations (e.g., external hard drive and Home Server)
  • Keep more than one old version of your most important and fast-changing documents (such as a paper or thesis).  This will provide protection against accidents while editing.

If you lack enough disk space, or if your backups take too much time, you should compress your files before copying them. There are many compression utilities that you can use including WinZip (for Windows users) and StuffIt (for Mac users). These utilities compress a large file or a large group of files into a single smaller file.

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Backup Tips

If you have questions about backing up your data, contact Computer User Services.

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