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Local IT expert offers insight on how to back up data and why it’s so important

Kenneth W. Hamilton, president/CEO of CMIT Solutions.

March 31 is World Backup Day, a national observance founded to educate consumers and businesses about the importance of data backup. CMIT Solutions, the nation’s leading provider of IT services to the small and medium-sized business (SMB) community, is honoring this IT-focused day by sharing insight on how businesses and residents alike can back up data such as banking information, family photos, and personal files.

The Times-Advocate interviewed Kenneth W. Hamilton, president/CEO of CMIT Solutions of Inland North County, who emphasized that technology devices are always at risk of being lost, stolen, broken, or compromised by cybercrime.

Every minute, 113 phones are lost or stolen — and 10 % of computers are infected with a virus each month! Luckily, several simple steps can be taken to prevent data loss when something like this happens. Backing up your information is the simplest way to ensure that a lost, stolen, or infected device won’t jeopardize your critical data. Keeping files stored in a secondary location is easy and delivers peace of mind in case of natural or manmade disaster.

Here is a list of ways businesses and residents can back up data:

• External hard drive: These are available for purchase from a local tech store, and they aren’t very expensive. Follow the instructions on the package and make sure the hard drive has enough space to hold all the data. This is a great option for families and individuals who want to back up files such as family photos.

• Online storage: Many companies offer FREE, or low cost, cloud backup for a limited amount of space, such as MozyPro, or Carbonite. Your home or business Internet Service Provider (ISP) may offer bundled cloud backup, and many of your smart phone providers also offer free or low cost backup for your phones.

• Managed backup: For businesses with many devices and moving parts, professional services are available. An IT expert can manage and back up data on an ongoing basis. Backing up data ensures that when a disaster like extreme weather, theft, or a broken device, strikes, data will not be lost. Timely and costly recovery efforts can be avoided if proper backup measures are in place before something goes wrong.

“World Backup Day is a perfect reminder to store data in a secondary location, whether it’s online or on an external hard drive,” Hamilton, owner of CMIT Solutions of Inland North County, told The Times-Advocate. “It’s not always the first thing people think about, but if something happened to your device and you didn’t have that information stored elsewhere, you’d lose everything. It’s so important to prevent data loss before it happens – it saves everyone a lot of money and hassle!”

Although Hamilton’s clientele is primarily businesses, these tips are also good for residences that have computers.

“I do get calls from people whose disk has failed or something became corrupt,” he said. “Typically the most valuable things on them are photos such as baby pictures or wedding pictures. It’s hard to put a dollar value on it. Most data, whether on a stick (aka thumb drive) or a hard drive, is recoverable, but the question is how much are you willing to spend?”

When Hamilton encounters this problem he usually farms it out to a company that has a “clean room,” where technicians take the disk apart in a dust free environment.

“You don’t want a speck of dust or cigarette smoke when you do that,” said Hamilton. “They walk in with masks on. They take them out to access the physical media. What fails is what causes the disk to spin. They will put it on a good functioning spin and retrieve it that way. It’s an expensive endeavor.”

Such a process will cost $400-$500 or more, and there is no guarantee that it will work.

“I hate seeing that,” says Hamilton. “More and more it’s pictures, especially residential computers. Typically, their pictures are not on the cloud. Most people don’t back up to the level they should. Any back up is better than none.”

One common mistake, says Hamilton, is to use a drop box as a back-up. “Although you can finagle a drop box to act like one, if you mess up the file, the drop box will be messed up too.”

“Usually, when people come to me, I try to do the recovery myself, and if we can—terrific! If we have to send it to the clean room . . . They will give you the estimate of what it will cost and the odds of recovering it,” he says.

For most people, going to Fry’s and buying a 1 Terabyte disk drive for $100 will do. “Then initiate the back up and DON’T use this disk drive as primary storage. It’s only a backup,” says Hamilton. And remember, if you keep the disk drive in the same building as the computer that you aren’t protected from flood or fire.”

“Disaster recovery” is accomplished by having a disk somewhere else. “That’s where Carbonite or MozyPro comes in,” says Hamilton, “Although I don’t recommend them for business, because their time isn’t fast enough.”

Hamilton does NOT recommend using USB devices, i.e. thumb drives for back up. “I have a new client that had a desk top they were using as a server. They had a USB drive sticking out as the backup. That was her back up. I don’t recommend that,” says Hamilton. “USB drives are a convenience and that’s all they were designed for. They fail something miserable! They are easy to steal and you don’t even know it’s gone. They are also easy to bend. Yet I’ve seen companies use them for that. I would get a regular disk drive for back up and not a USB stick,” he says.

Another reason for businesses and residences to have a backup is that there is a lot of malware attacks going on. “If you get ransomware that encrypts your files and you have to pay a ransom, the best defense is a backup that is not connected to that computer,” he says.  “Unencrypting a computer attacked in this way is very expensive. Having a backup is the best line of defense.”

That’s where having multiple backups can be a life saver. “Then go back until you find the right one that is not encrypted. Once the encryption hits you—you know it right away.”

How often should you backup?  For residences Hamilton recommends a minimum of once a day. “For businesses I would back up every 15 minutes. If you have a large server and you have many customers, 15 minutes adds up to a lot of lost productivity. Each night we wrap up the last back up of the day to the cloud. That takes up bandwidth, so we usually do it at night. That’s for disaster recovery.”

For more information on CMIT Solutions and the services it offers, please visit www.cmitsolutions.com.

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