Tuesday, October 01, 2013

Everyday Data Protection Tips

Every day we create data, modify data, publish data to the Internet, and delete data.  These have become so natural we often do not heed the warnings about deleting a document or think twice before saving a file overwriting the existing file.  Most of the time there is absolutely nothing wrong with this approach.  However, there are times when we have saver's remorse after we saved a file realizing we deleted a section we had not intended to or modified something we do not know how to modify back.  

A common example of this is making a change in a large spreadsheet containing important data collected and organized.  Realizing a formula was somehow changed or a column removed leaving the data essentially in a "corrupted" state is a sickening feeling.  Technically the data is not corrupted, but if you cannot get the information out of the data you need it might as well be.  Deleting a column with a formula referencing data in another column can cause all other dependent formulas to fail.  Here is an example of a formula no longer working because data it depended on was removed:





Another example would be accidentally deleting data while writing a paper or a letter, especially documents at least 3 pages or more.  If you accidentally selected a paragraph or two and started typing, the selected paragraphs would quickly disappear.  Is this something you would notice every time?  Perhaps, but perhaps not.  This is easier to do with a laptop when you are typing and have a touchpad.  Accidentally touching the touchpad with your hand can happen without even realizing it especially when you are focused.  Anyone who has ever written a long email or letter and lost it knows you never write the same information twice.  The first iteration is always full of detail, a true expression of how you are feeling at the time and has a relaxed tone.  The second iteration, after having lost the first one, is shorter, to the point and comes from a place of frustration.

Three things to consider to help protect your data:  

  1. Try saving a file using the Save As option with a new name in cases where making a mistake or losing the version you had when you started is not an option.
  2. For emails, or places where you are typing online and a session time out is a possibility, try typing your message in advance in a document program.  Once you are finished, copy and paste your text into the email.
  3. Save often.  I cannot stress this enough.  Even though most programs auto-save in the background, they are only saving the changes and are not committing these changes to your original file.  These auto-saves live in the same folder as your original file, but they are a separate file.  Usually when you recover from a software crash you will be prompted with which file to open - the original or the auto-saved version.  Most of the time the auto-saved version can be applied to the existing file without issue, but there are times it gets corrupted and you can still lose data.  Also, anything you wrote after the auto-save is lost.  
These tips will help prevent localized data loss, but keep in mind, they will do nothing if you have an equipment failure or loss.  To protect your data from all types of loss, you should invest in a backup solution.  There are many types, including online backup which keeps versions of files and makes recovering an older version of a file a snap.  For more information on other advantages of using our online backup software, visit our Why Cloud Services page.  Whatever plan you implement, make sure it is something you can manage and follow through.  There is nothing worse than realizing you lost the family wedding photos or messed up a spreadsheet tracking a project for three years.

Happy computing and be safe!

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