Backing Up Your Data
Running a regular backup of the data on your computer or mobile device is required by University policy. Your data is probably the most
important aspect of your system, and no matter how carefully you protect it problems can arise that cause irreparable data loss.
IMPORTANT: CUMC requires that sensitive and confidential data on any media - whether it's a USB key, external drive, disc, smartphone etc. - is properly encrypted and password-protected. It also cannot be stored with an external vendor such as Apple's iCloud or Dropbox that do not have a Business Associate Agreement with CUMC. CUMC network drives and OneDrive for Business meet encryption storage requirements.
What is a Backup?
Backing up your data simply means saving copies of your necessary files and folders such as documents, pictures, locally stored email messages and contacts, and
What other files should I include?
When running a data backup, the device's operating system and software programs or apps are typically not included. Restoring these requires re-installing rather than simply moving or copying as you can do with documents and images.
How do I run a Backup?
- Computers - if it did not come with system restore discs, make sure you create them to be able to reinstall the operating system.
- Mobile devices - most can reinstall the operating system from a factory reset (returning the device to its initial, out-of-the-package state) and downloading any needed updates.
- Software programs and Apps - verify with the vendor (any user manual, instructions or purchasing/licensing information should have information) whether you should keep any installation files, keys, licenses etc. or can re-download if reinstallation is needed in the future.
There are a number of ways to do a backup, but the simplest for the average computer user is to run a backup feature that
is part of the system's operating system. Windows and Macintosh have built in back up programs that can automate this for you, select the appropriate link below for tutorials.
For additional information on using Windows or Macintosh backups, please see CUIT's File Backups page.
- Windows - search for Backup in the Settings or Control Panel
- Macintosh - select Time Machine from System Preferences
Backups for mobile devices can vary greatly. Some use a syncing program installed on your computer (ex: iTunes for iPhone and iPad), while other don't have a common method. See your device manufacturer's website or look for a backup app that has been approved by a reliable source.
It's important to consider what's available to you for storing your backups. The most common options are listed below, and be sure to review current Approved Encryption methods if you are backing up any confidential or sensitive information to meet CUMC requirements and Federal regulations on data security.
- Network Drives
If you use a CUMC department-owned computer, you most likely have a network drive you can use for backups. Network drives managed by
the CUMC IT Server Support
group are regularly backed up by our server technicians, so recent copies of data you save on the drive will be available for emergencies.
Make sure this is the case with any network drive before relying on it for your primary backup storage space.
- Cloud Services
OneDrive for Business is free for those with a current CUMC Office 365 account (typically anyone with an individual @cumc.columbia.edu email account), and is approved for your own files including sensitive and confidential data. It should not be used to replace network drives or SharePoint for data that is used with others in your department or team.
Note that other cloud providers such as Apple/iCloud, Dropbox, etc. do not have the required Business Associate Agreement and are not approved for sensitive data.
- Removable media - CD/DVD, USB flash drives, external hard drives
When running a scheduled backup or simply saving copies of files, you can specify that you'd like to save data or files to removable storage
such as a disc or USB key (also called Memory Stick or Flash/Thumb Drive). Rewritable media such as USB keys are not the best option for
permanent storage, since there is a chance of overwriting older files that you may still want. It's also a good idea to store your important
backups that are on removable media at a different location than your computer, so that any disaster in one location will not be a permanent
loss of your files.
- Hard drive partitions
Operating system backups often give you the option to save to a different partition on the hard drive, if your drive has more than one
partition. This can be useful if the OS on the main partition crashes and you have to reformat (overwrite and reinstall everything) that part
of the drive, but means you lose that backup if the entire hard drive is damaged, lost or stolen.
Most backup programs offer the three different options listed below. When manually copying files and folders, you can also create these
options by keeping track of the date of your backups, and then searching for changes to the files and folders that were made after the
latest backup. It's also important to keep in mind how much space you have to store backups, and how long or involved restoring data from the
different types of backups may take.
- Full backup
A full backup copies all of your necessary data, due to this it can require a lot of storage space and a long time to both save and restore
if need be. Once the first full backup is done, it's generally better to run differential and incremental backups at regular intervals.
- Differential backup
A differential backup saves files which have been changed or added since the last full backup.
- Incremental backup
An incremental backup saves files which have been changed or added since the last backup, whether full or differential.
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Last updated 12/03/2018