Virtual Riders Headder - Briefings

Backing up

Backing UpBacking up means making a copy in computer terms. There are a number of things that you might want to make a copy of. These include:

  • information you have created (documents, spreadsheets, emails etc.) which are referred to as data;
  • your operating system (Windows for example, and its settings for your computer or the server);
  • and programmes (normally in the form of original disks).

Of these, data backup is normally regarded as the most important, but if you have a server, this may be justas critical.

Backups are essential for everyone. It is simply a matter of good administration and risk management.You can take out insurance against the loss of data/restoration, but in exactly the same way that a fire candestroy paper records, electronic destruction for whatever reason is just as costly and time consuming.However, electronic copying is easy and cheap nowadays.

Associated with backing up data is security. This is a separate issue, but suffice to say that the DataProtection Act applies equally to paper and electronic information. In very simple terms, this means that ifyou hold information on an individual which enables that individual to be uniquely identified and 'traced',then you must firstly have their permission to have the information and secondly it must be held securely.

There are many circumstances where you need to maintain records for a number of years, including forexample records for the Inland Revenue and specific funders. If you keep your information electronically,then you need to maintain copies of that information and it may need to go back 6+ years! The other majorreason to take backups is the "what if" scenario. Ask yourself the question "what if specific information waslost". Would it affect your organisation; would it be critical; would you have to close down? Just asimportantly, think about what information that might be; for example, accounts, p.a.y.e. details, recordsagainst which you are funded etc. Then consider where that information is held; for example, on anindividual's machine, on the server, on a memory stick. Then consider the risk attached to holding theinformation there, for example; a power surge destroying data, malicious attack (from a disgruntled memberof staff or a virus), from your technical support (who by accident re-formatted your data drive), fire, flood ortheft. This forms a risk assessment which should be part of your organisation's quality processes. You canthen address this with a backup and security policy, some of which may need to be included in jobdescriptions or staff handbooks. You are particularly at risk if you don't have a server.

Focussing on data backup, it is important that whatever system you employ, it works. In order for it to work,you must first ensure that it also doesn't get destroyed (perhaps by the risk you were protecting against).So, to put a backup tape or disk on top of your computer/server defeats the object if there is a theft or a fire!In other words, you need to locate your backup somewhere safe, preferably at a different location.

There are many options when it comes to backing up data and choosing the right one for you will depend

on a number of factors which you will need to consider;

 cost of setting it up

  • ease of operation
  • amount of time the backup takes
  • how much data is to be backed up
  • amount of staff time involved
  • how technical it is

 The possible backup options include:

 Floppy Disk   1.4MB  Becoming rarer – £1
 Zip Disk  750MB  Becoming rarer – £7/disk
 CD-Recordable  600ishMB  15p/CD
 DVD-Recordable  4.7GB - 9GB (Dual Layer)  25p/DVD
 External Hard Drive  500Gb - 2TB (and Growing)  £60 for 500GB USB
 Network Attached Storage (NAS)  upto 2TB (and Growing)  £136 for 500GB
 USB Memory Stick  upto 32GB (and Growing)  £35 for 16GB 
 Tape Drives  10 - 800GB   around £20  
 Online Backup Service

 from 1GB to Unlimited 

 Starting 1GB free - Hundreds p.a.


The commonest backup systems involve using tapes which are reliable, can be done overnight and canhold a reasonably large amount of data. However, they are not necessarily the cheapest option. You canfind out greater detail about the different types of backup up and their advantages/disadvantages at:


For a comprehensive list of backup software to suit all needs and pockets:


The solution that’s right for you is dependent on all the factors previously mentioned and it is their balancewhich is important (i.e. time/cost/capacity/resources/importance). Virtual Riders can advise you accordinglyfree of charge. Call 0845 337 2949.


There is no point in having a backup system in place unless you use it: and if you’re not there, thatsomeone else does it. This requires a simple and straightforward policy backed up (sic) by a clearprocedure.First of all decide the following:

  • What is backed up
  • Where it is being backed up to
  • Who is in charge of performing backups and verification
  • When backup will be run
  • Which software will be used to manage the backup process

Write this down and make sure people are aware of it! Create a review period (e.g. every year or whenevera new project is set up for example).


Now create the procedure/protocol. This means determining the frequency of backup, how many priorcopies there are and where the backups are stored. The example below (from LASA) uses tapes, but couldapply to any media.·

  • There are four tapes for days of the week - Monday, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday.
  • For Tuesdays, there are a further four tapes - for the second Tuesday of the month, the thirdTuesday, and so on.
  • There are five more tapes, each for the first Tuesday of month - these get overwritten every fivemonths.

This schedule enables the restoration of data from the previous evening or from five months ago asrequired.

Added to this needs to be a pragmatic approach to where the tapes are stored. For example, the daily andweekly tapes could be stored on site in a fire proof safe, with the monthly tapes being stored off site.

If of course you don’t have a server you may need to do little else than make sure that all staff have a copyof their work which they give to you once a week (for example) on a memory stick (£10 for 2Gb willnormally suffice).You may think that all of this is overkill for your organisation. If you think this is the case, just ask yourselfwhat happens if you lose all your data in the next 10 minutes….

Additional information: