How can I avoid data loss?

How can I avoid data loss?

Losing data can cause more than mere inconvenience. Here's how to safeguard against it

We store so much information electronically that its loss would be nothing short of a disaster. Important documents and financial information can often be replaced (with a bit of hassle) but things like photos are irreplaceable. Yet, with just a few sensible precautions you can guard yourself against data loss.

Problem: What’s the best way to avoid data loss?

Solution: The simplest way to safeguard against losing important data is to ensure that you keep a back-up copy. That way, if one gets destroyed you'll have the other to fall back on. The simplest way to back-up data is to copy the files you want to an external drive, and there are ways to automate the process so that nothing gets missed. You could use the back-up tool built into Windows with the help of our step-by-step guide, or you could opt for a cloud-based backup service like KNOWHOW Cloud Backup . This ensures that your data is stored off site so it will even survive fire or flood.

Keep your precious data safe with KnowHow Cloud Backup

Problem: What files or settings should I back up?

Solution: Anything of value to you. Most people remember to back-up the obvious work files, bank statements etc, but don't forget things like your music library, eBook collection and family photos. A basic rule of thumb is that if you don't want to throw it away, back it up. Large external drives are cheap, especially compared to the cost of data loss.

When setting up your backup , make sure that everything of value is protected by it

Problem: How often should I back up?

Solution: That depends what you're backing up. Important files that change frequently will need to be backed up more often than those that remain unchanged. Set a backup schedule that creates a full backup , followed by smaller backups that just record any changes to the data. Scheduling enables you to backup at least once a day and some software that uses cloud services can back up changes as soon as they're made.

Problem: How can I backup different versions of the same file?

Solution: If you change a file and resave it, there's a chance you could lose data, if anything was deleted during editing. Later versions of Microsoft Office and some cloud backup services include versioning; the ability to revert to an earlier version of a document, while Windows 8 introduces File History, which does the same thing for all the files, stored in your libraries.

If you’re using an earlier version of Windows there’s another option: DocShield is free for personal use and can be set to protect the documents in a folder by taking regular snapshots of them. These are saved to an archive file, which can itself be backed up to an external drive or online service. This protects your data even if you were to accidentally select all of it, delete the lot and click ‘save’.

DocShield ensures that changes to a document don't prevent you from recovering an earlier version

Problem: I’ve burned my photos to DVD , can I now safely delete them from my hard drive to free-up space?

Solution: You can, but by deleting them from your hard drive you’ll leave yourself with a single copy and no backup . This process is archiving: moving less important data to a storage system. If you value your photos, it's a good idea to keep a separate copy on different media. This doesn't have to be your hard drive, but single copies of any file means it isn't backed up.

Problem: If I encrypt my data for added security, what do I need in case I have to restore it from a backup ?

Solution: Most – but not all – cloud-based backup services are encrypted and protected with a username and password. To restore files stored there, you need to log in. If you've used your own encryption for a physical backup by using a program like TrueCrypt then that’s password protected too. In some cases, you’ll need a key file as well. It's a good idea to make a note of your password and make sure any key files are backed-up too.


When you encrypt data you set a password and optionally a key file. You will need these to restore any files protected by your encryption

Problem: How do I avoid file corruption?

Solution: Corrupt files are ones that no longer open due to damage. The best way to prevent this is to ensure your PC is running smoothly and isn't unexpectedly shut down. Use an uninterruptable power supply when running a desktop computer (the battery in a laptop effectively provides the same protection). Maintain your computer by running an up-to-date antivirus, keeping Windows up to date and periodically running error checking on your hard drive.

The best way to avoid file corruption is to ensure that your PC is well maintained

Problem: Are cloud services safe?

Solution: That depends on who is running the service and what security and privacy policies they have in place: a reputable service will publish these policies. As with any backup method, you need to consider who has physical access to your data and, given that access, who can actually open and read it.