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One Step Ahead
February 5, 2008, Volume 54, No. 20

One Step Ahead

Another tip in a series provided by the Offices of Information Systems & Computing and Audit, Compliance & Privacy.

Backing Up Data Regularly

Last year, a study conducted by Carnegie Mellon University showed that somewhere between 2-4% of computers are reported to have some sort of hard drive failure. This figure is most alarming if you think about it in terms of the people who use computers and their data. Three people out of 100 could lose important data that is stored on their hard drives. In a given moment, research, photographs, spreadsheets, documents, e-mail—anything and everything could be lost. Beyond hard drive failure, there is also the chance that laptops could be lost or stolen. The Computrace vendor, Absolute, reports that 44% of companies report that between 1-3% of their laptops are stolen each year and 11% of companies report that 5% or more of their laptops are stolen each year. Backing up data regularly, to a separate device, is the only insurance that a person can have against any form of data loss.

Users should talk to their Local Support Providers (LSPs) to find out what options are recommended and available locally for backing up Penn data. 

Many organizations have shared file storage servers available, which are set up to back up contents regularly. Files saved there, instead of on a local hard drive, are less vulnerable to loss because of routine back ups.

ISC now has available a for-fee service called Back-IT-UP, for backing up desktops, laptops, and servers. This easy-to-use service lets you define exactly what you want to back up and determine a convenient schedule for running your backups. All data are compressed and encrypted before being sent to the Back-IT-UP repository, which maintains copies of the backups both locally at Penn and at a remote, high-availability site off-campus. 

In addition, key documents and data could be backed up by copying them to a CD, DVD, secondary hard or USB drive. Although relying on this manual method as the only backup is risky (you could forget to do it!), this provides users with an added level of assurance that an additional copy is available in a worst case scenario.

The unfortunate truth is that drives do fail, and at a higher rate than most of the technical world originally thought. Protect yourself and Penn data by working proactively and backing up regularly.


To receive weekly OneStepAhead  tips via email, send email to listserv@lists.upenn.edu with the following text in the body of the message:  sub one-step-ahead <your name>.

For additional tips, see the One Step Ahead link on the Information Security website: www.upenn.edu/computing/security/.

Almanac - February 5, 2008, Volume 54, No. 20