Paul Bernstein, Attorney at Law
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Paul Bernstein, Attorney at Law
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Most of what we do or learn is from hard experience, not from what we learned in school. Backing up my computer the other day, while I was out-of-town, is a good example of many good computer practices that were not followed.

Lessons learned from others

First of all, over the years, I have heard horror story after horror story about back-up software programs, tape drives and tapes that failed. Thus, when the eventual computer hard disk crash took place, the back-up medium did not work. The problem is present in any and all events because, there is no way I know of to check that a tape has real and complete data on it, except to activate the "back-up" powers of the software program, and nobody does that. So, I have a huge bias against using any medium that will not allow me to verify what is on the backup tape.

In addition, even if you are backing up to another hard drive on your system, most back-up programs create a new, compressed, file that is also susceptible to corruption. Corruption can take place in many ways, including an imperceptible electrical "spike", problems with your computers, etc.

What happened to Paul Bernstein

What happened to me was that I did not instruct my paralegal on how Paul Bernstein wants "back-up" to take place on my main, standalone computer. My main computer has a SyQuest 1.5 GB drive attached and the disk is removable…in theory…a perfect way to do backup. And so, while I was out-of-town, my paralegal decided to do a backup of that machine.

Unfortunately, while the backup software was doing its "thing", the entire computer froze up – probably a Windows 95 bug, and having no other apparent option, my paralegal did the three-finger-salute…she hit the "Control-Alt-Delete" keys and "poof", there went the hard disk of my computer….well, not entirely, but all folders got renamed and other curious results transpired, which meant that there was one heck of a mess….it only took three days to replace most of the software I use regularly and to identify all the folders and files with now, very long numeric identifiers, as compared to intelligible file names.

How to do backup

Here are Paul Bernstein’s tips on how to do backups.

  1. I like the idea of having a removable hard drive, such as the Iomega Jaz Drive or the SyQuest drives be the backup medium. The disks are small, presently, 1.5 to 2.0 gigs of data and can store all those text files and other data, perhaps even your office suite of software and other important applications programs.
  2. The disks can be put into your pocket or purse and taken off premises very easily.
  3. Alternatively, you might want to create a CD-ROM of those important files. This is a neat thing to do if you have a laptop and want to take particular files with you to your home or on the road…just be certain that in addition to the files you are taking on CD-ROM, that all other data is similarly backed up.
  4. The key is to use a "back-up" program that does not compress the data for speed purposes, but that makes a "mirror image" of what is on your hard disk drive. Thus, this type of software makes a folder-by-folder, file-by-file transfer of information to the back-up disk. This, in turn, allows you to test check the back-up. You do this by double-clicking on a few of the folders and double-clicking on a few of the files in such randomly selected folders. If clicking on the folders opens them up and if, similarly, clicking on the files causes the application program that created the file to start and open up the selected file, and if the file looks "good", then you know you are O.K.
  5. A secondary approach is to use floppy disks, or additional high-capacity disks such as mentioned above, and put them in the physical paper files they apply to, or note on the labels of each disk the content of each, and have separate back-ups at home or in a safe deposit box. This way, if you ever have a hard disk crash, you have a very well organized back-up series of disks at home and can quickly find and load the most important files you need to work with.

Follow these suggestions or regret it!

I’ve had a number of disasters over the years with computers. I’ve learned the lessons I convey to you by hard experience…mostly…ignoring the suggestions I received from then, more knowledgeable computer friends.

Don’t forget, I go back to magnetic media with IBM’s mag-tape machine and then to "dedicated" word processing machines. Accordingly, I’ve had the time to make every mistake in the book.

Always remember that the information on magnetic media in your office took hundreds and perhaps thousands of hours to create and contains invaluable information and recorded wisdom. Indeed, that digital information is invaluable - priceless. You need to duplicate the information and protect it as no other asset you possess. Don’t make the same mistakes I’ve made in the past. Be smart and make backups, the Paul Bernstein way, today!

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