It isn’t just small and home office users who have to create their own backup solutions and make their own backups. Many corporate employees do at least part of their work on a company laptop—and 42% of small and mid-sized companies surveyed in the 2004-2005 Imation Data Protection Survey leave it to the employee to back up data kept on that laptop. Only 28% of the companies surveyed have a system in place to back up the data on employee laptops to their corporate network.
If you’re an employee with a company laptop, you may already know which category your employer falls into. If you’re not sure, ask your IT department what would happen if your laptop drive suddenly failed and you lost everything on it. Would they be able to restore it? If not, you’ll know you have to find your own backup solution—unless you’re in a position to change the corporate IT policy.
Of course, your company can only back your files up to their network if you’re connected to it. If you work on that laptop without being connected to the network, you may still have to come up with your own backup solution, such as putting the files on a CD or an external drive. (A thumb drive may be sufficient, depending on the size and type of the files you work with.)
Otherwise you may find yourself having to explain to your boss what happened to that absolutely critical report.
If your company is among the ones which backs up all the data on employee desktops and laptops, you may still not be out of the woods, because many IT departments set up their automated backup systems, ship the tapes offsite, upgrade the software when necessary—and never check to make sure that they can actually restore from those backups. A backup you can’t use is as bad as no backup at all—if not worse.
How do you test your backups? The surest way to know they work is to actually restore a machine or a file from them, but most backup software comes with a “verify data” option to ensure that the files did indeed get copied. (Even consumer CD-burning software like Nero provides a “verify data” option when making a data CD.) If you make manual file backups, take the disk out, put it back in, and try opening the files you put on it.
Verifying slows down the backup process, which is why some IT managers (and individuals) turn it off. Backups for a large system can take hours, and may mean that you can’t use the corporate network (or your PC) while they are running. That can be inconvenient, though major network backups are usually scheduled for the wee hours of the morning when there aren’t many employees using the system anyway, and many SOHO and consumer backup programs can be similarly scheduled as long as you’re willing to leave your machine on when you go to bed or out to do the shopping. (Potentially dangerous if you have a cat or a small child—see “The Cat Ate My Backup” in the FileSlinger™ Backup Blog Archives.)
The time you might save by not verifying your backups is nothing to the data you might lose. And if you actually work in the IT department and it’s your fault the backups are no good, there’s a good chance you could lose your job as well.