How to determine what you should be backing up
Well, it's the new year, a time when most local folks traditionally go through the exercise of cleaning up their houses, offices, cars, and whatnot.
What about computers? Does anyone actually clean these up anymore?
We're not talking about the exteriors of a PC. After all, just about everyone dusts their boxes, wipes down their screens and shakes out their keyboards once in a while.
Rather, when we talk about cleaning up a PC, we're typically referring to its innards --more specifically its hard drive.
We've all heard the mantra that "disks are so cheap now," and this is true. So for home users, you pretty much don't need to delete anything. For most folks, you won't fill up your hard drive until it's time to buy a new PC. Those of you who dabble in video editing or other pursuits that require a lot of disk space are usually savvy enough to know what to delete.
What about businesses or government organizations? Certainly you can't keep everything, nor would you necessarily want or need to. After all, while disks are cheap, the costs still add up over time.
What you really need is a data retention policy. Simply put, such a policy sets the rules by which data should be saved, and just as importantly when it should be deleted.
Data retention policies have been in place long before computers were even in vogue. Of course, in those days, data was mostly on paper, but organizations, especially those in the financial or insurance industries, had rules in place to deal with the paper.
What are some of the things your organization take into account when developing such a policy?
A popular approach is to limit the size of user e-mail boxes. In and of itself, this is not a bad tenet, but it's easy to get around. Most users who want to keep old e-mail will find a way around this limit, thereby moving the problem but not solving it.
Still, a good policy must address e-mail. But don't forget about instant messaging either. While many folks still view IM as a plaything for teenage girls, more and more respectable adults are using it to get work done. Saving such communications is often important to establishing a trail as to what exactly happened.
Follow the age-old rule of "backups always work; it's the restoration that causes the problem." Make sure that data archived to offline storage, such as tape, CD/DVD or even disk can be restored in a timely and effective manner. Define procedures for backup and restore, and test those procedures on a regular basis.
There are a host of other considerations when defining such a policy, many of these are specific to your business or industry. Expect your needs to change over time and review your data retention policy on a regular basis.
is president of ISDI Technologies Inc., a Honolulu-based IT consultancy. Call him at 944-8742 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org