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”.

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

  • Critical: understand where your data is located. Documents are either on a network drive (if you actively save to “F” or “G”) or on your computers hard drive. Pictures and music are on your computers hard drive. Email is already backed up on Googles servers unless you use an email client to store mail locally.
  • 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.

Where to back it up

For primary computers issued by OIT we provide backup solutions for you. On macOS we provide an external hard drive for use with Time Machine (backup utility on Macs). If you do not have one we can set one up upon request. For Windows we install a network backup solution (Atempo Live Navigator) that backs up your computers data to a secure server on campus.

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

Personal media:

  • Recordable DVDs or CDs – 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

Active Directory:

Our 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.

Cloud storage:

Cloud storage can get you many gigabytes of free storage which is often plenty for important documents and pictures. Williams uses and supports G Suite witch includes unlimited storage in Google Drive.  Other cloud storage includes Dropbox, iCloud, and Microsoft One Drive among others. They are all simple and easy to use, however you need to actively pay attention and make sure you are saving your important files to the cloud service not just on your computers hard drive for these systems to work. [Important: Review the Williams College Google Drive Use Policy before using it as a backup location]

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