by Bob Walters | July 01, 2004

By now we all know we have to be prepared for the unexpected during a meeting power outages, tornadoes, an earthquake or even terrorist attacks. But when was the last time you did a backup or reviewed a disaster plan for your critical information?
     There are several levels of disaster recovery plans, ranging from volumes of procedures and redundant backup facilities to carrying a CD full of critical files in your briefcase. Following are various methods for backing up data.

Most of us own a backup program, like the standard procedures Microsoft provides with the Windows operating system or the use of a Zip drive. What’s new is that online backup services have become available for as little as $10 per month; they are as painless to use as they are affordable.
     When you subscribe to an online service like AmeriVault (, Connected DataProtector ( or Data-Insure (, you have the assurance that, wherever you are, you can safely and quickly back up or retrieve your data over the Internet. Most of these services offer a 10- to 30-day trial.
     Since most of us have some “open pipe” to the Internet, either by DSL, T1 or cable, using an online backup service is very simple. First, download the software to the primary PC or server you want to use for the backup monitor. The program will ask you to identify each of the PCs and disk drives you want to back up. The contents of these drives will be displayed; click on the directories and files you want stored online.
     To back up data flagged as private or not shared, such as your accounting applications, grant limited access to the backup PC or server.
     The first backup will take a while. The initial run of my notebook took three hours while the storage software made a map of my drive, folders and files referred to as a baseline backup. Subsequent backups only copy files that have been changed and added. My next run took about 10 minutes.

The beauty of these online backup systems is they can be set to run at any time and as often as you want. Just make sure the primary PC is left on and everyone has logged out of the files you want to duplicate. The backup starts itself, searches the PCs for files that have been changed or added, then compresses and transmits them to the online server.

Many of the backup services carry a HIPAA certification meaning they comply with the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, which sets standards for the security of medical records. The guidelines are strict, so you can be assured your data is safe if you choose an HIPAA-certified service.
     If you’re concerned about firewalls and access, the software installed on the primary PC initiates the backup session meaning the communication is outbound only so you shouldn’t have to reconfigure your firewall to let the backup work.

If you have a problem with a file, you can selectively go to your backup directory and restore it. If you lose an entire PC, you could do a baseline restore followed by a restore of the most recently changed files. It might take a while to download, but at least you’ll have the data.
     I recommend developing a backup map of each PC. In addition to the normal directories, My Documents and Outlook PST files, include the data files for any applications on that specific PC. If you are in a Peer-to-Peer network and various PCs are the servers for shared applications like QuickBooks or ACT!, make sure these directories are flagged as well.