Onsite Data Backup
You can use your office computers as extra backup devices in addition to keeping backup sets in external hard drives, flash drives, data disks, etc. If you have other office computers, have your backup software copy your single data folder to each of them. When your primary computer fails, designate one of the backups as the new primary storage file and go back to work with the existing office computers until your own computer is running. The duplicate image disk is better because it saves data unknowingly stored outside the storage file. If you regularly test all of your programs on your other office computer with the backup data stored on a secondary computer, this should be as good for data storage as the image copy.
Password-protect these backup data storage folders until you need to use them. Eliminate the possibility of anyone accidentally working on these files as originals and having their work wiped out when the daily backup is made.
If you store your data outside of your computer, after a crash you will need to obtain a working computer and restore the data.
Data Storage Devices
External hard drives hold as much data as anyone could want and are very inexpensive and stable. Use plenty when devising a backup routine. Keep them offsite and onsite for inexpensive and secure data storage available everywhere.
Flash Drives are particularly useful for carrying around small amounts of data needed for a particular purpose. In backing up your office, one option is to carry your new backup data offsite with a flash drive and download it at home. Flash drives are pricey for the larger sizes needed to fully back up an entire office. However, when using an incremental backup, the amount of data saved each day is not large and small inexpensive flash drives could suffice. Carry flash drives attached to something, like a key ring. If you hold it loose, eventually, over the years, you will lose it.
I am old school on data disks. I like Blu-ray or DVDs as a redundant reserve backup. They are hard to damage and last for a long time. Many conditions that damage hard drives won’t hurt data disks. Data stored in other media is more vulnerable. Flash drives are easily lost. Without showing any defects, a backup hard drive can mechanically fail, be dropped and broken, magnetically damaged, electronically corrupted, or simply wear out. Any connected drive might be damaged by a power surge. Online backups could fail to be made or damaged.
Whatever media you use for backing up, switch from that media before it becomes obsolete or requires special-order equipment. You want to buy your next computer without waiting for a special order old-style drive to restore your data.
Backup Your Software
If you have a data loss, you often lose your software as loaded on your hard drive.
Backing up data elsewhere for use after a data loss requires you to replicate your exact or compatible software. Since it could be years before you ever need to restore data, that commonplace program you use now might not be available. We all saw many peripherals and more than a few software programs become junk when there was a new Windows OS recently. Over the years, I have seen many difficulties in reading old data with new programs. A good backup will let you go back to work right away. Make sure you have readily available software to read your data, and check it regularly. If you cannot make duplicate copies of your software itself, keep an onsite and offsite list of all of your software, any updates or patches, and the receipts for purchase. This documentation may let you obtain your software without purchasing it again.
Backup Your Website
When setting up your website, arrange to keep a full periodic backup of the site. This will allow you to restore it yourself after a crash, to switch hosts easily, and maintain required records. You may need historic snapshots of your website for a client dispute, advertising records, or something you don’t know about yet. Keep an incremental backup to record all changes.
Online Data Backup
Online data backup is very popular, growing in use and provides a great offsite backup. It’s inexpensive and convenient. You can upload data from any Internet connection, and anyone with your password can download data from any Internet connection.
Online data backup has special professional and business concerns for attorneys. We must protect our client’s data as we protect our client’s funds in trust. The data must be secure. Adopt a professional password policy with strict rules and frequent changes. You must verify that the online data storage company is reliable and professional. The online company must have a good backup plan of its own, preferably with data backed up to another site and not merely to another server next to where you have your data. Can you reach a live person for tech support? Are they insured if they lose your data or if it’s stolen? Is your contract with them airtight and fully acceptable to you? What if you get into a dispute with them about the fees in your second contract year and they refuse access to your data until you pay?
Online data backup is excellent as one of at least two independent offsite backups if you secure it properly, but not as your sole backup.
This completes our 5-part series on law office computer backups. Stay tuned for future law firm tech posts by Remy Luria.
Remy Luria first logged on to the DOD Internet and other remote computers from Cornell University in 1977, where he obtained his JD from the law school and was an editor on the Cornell International Law Journal. He studied international trade and tax law at the Europa Institute in The Netherlands before practicing law in New York City, New Jersey, and then Honolulu. He used three kinds of pre-DOS OS and computers without hard drives before getting an 8088 DOS PC. Mr. Luria has held many bar positions with the ABA, ABA-YLD, NYSBA, NJSBA, HSBA, CLLA, and ACA, was elected five times to the Nuuanu/Punchbowl Neighborhood Board, and has testified before the Hawaii State Legislature. He wrote the first Information Technology Chapter for the HSBA’s guide for lawyers opening their own office over 10 years ago and recently updated it. His areas of practice include international law, commercial law, bankruptcy, real estate, mortgages, and administrative law for foreign companies. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.