Backing Up Data

What to back up

There are two types of files:

  • Data files that you create (Word documents, Excel spreadsheets, pictures, etc.)
  • Programs that you use to create your work (Word, Excel, Photoshop, etc.) and Operating System files (Windows or Mac OS)

There is no need to backup the program files; they can be reinstalled. The important data is in the files that you worked hard to create. Important data should be stored in two different physical locations since any drive can fail, often without any warning signs. For example, keep your files on both your hard drive and either an external drive; a flash drive; a network drive, or “in the cloud”.

Cloud solutions

Technically these are not backup solutions, but you can get many gigabytes of free storage which is often plenty for important documents and pictures.  We have used Dropbox, SugarSync, Microsoft SkyDrive and Google Drive.  They are all simple and easy to use, however you need to actively pay attention to making sure you are saving your important files in the correct folders for these systems to work.

How to back it up

Organize your data so the backup procedure is quick and efficient:

  • Critical: understand where your data is located. IMAP email is up on our server but local mailboxes and POP email is on your computer. Documents are either on a network drive (if you actively save to F or G) or on your hard drive. Pictures and music are on your hard drive.
  • Keep all your data together: move all the files and folders/ directories you want to backup into Documents (or a similar folder) on your hard drive. Apple and Microsoft actively suggest you not keep files at the root of the hard drive (C drive). Keep important stuff in your Documents folder.

You can store your backup data on personal media or the Williams Active Directory servers such as Files2 and Files3 (represented by drive letter F: on a PC) or in Google Drive. [Important: Review the Williams College Google Drive Use Policy before using it as a backup location]

Examples of personal media:

  • Recordable DVDs or CSs – best for archiving (burn and forget). Disadvantage: slow
  • External (usb or firewire) hard drives – best for active (daily), best for storage capacity (up to 2TB)
  • USB flash drives – best for portability

OIT will provide Mac users with an external drive upon request for use with Time Machine (backup utility on Macs)

Active Directory servers provide additional protection, because servers are backed up nightly. However, keep in mind that daily server backups are retained for one month. It would be impossible to retrieve a file from our server backup that you deleted two months ago.

Questions: Contact the HelpDesk at 413-597-4090 or email: