To avoid losing valuable data, make backup copies of your important computer data, store them securely, and consider storing extra copies at another location.

What Files to Back Up

Backup whatever cannot easily be replaced. Some suggestions:

  • Web bookmarks
  • Digital photos
  • Personal projects – Save your files throughout your work process, then back up the files regularly.
  • Purchased software and other digital media – If you purchased anything online that was delivered via download, keep and back up the installers to avoid re-purchasing them.
  • Application information – Back up any templates, macros, or other customized items you don’t want to recreate.
  • University records – Be sure to retain these in accordance with the University Records Retention Policy.

How and Where to Back Up Files

We recommend using a backup utility on your personal computer, as well as an external location in case of serious computer failure. While it’s generally up to you to back up your files, check with your local IT support specialists — they may have network provisions that make it easier to save your files. Depending on how much data you have to back up, you have several choices for external storage devices. Compare your options below then choose what will work best for you.

Backing Up Your Computer
Windows
Microsoft’s newer operating systems no longer have built-in programs for backing up your data, but Microsoft’s free SyncToy application serves a similar function. Follow HowToGeek’s SyncToy tutorial to install and configure it.There are also third-party applications with more advanced features if SyncToy does not meet your needs, such as Second Copy.
Mac
Mac OS X has a built-in backup program called Time Machine, which can back up your entire computer.
Backing Up Sensitive Data

Recommended options:

  • A file server set aside for this purpose.
  • Offline media (flash drive, external hard drive, DVD, etc.)

Not Recommended:

  • Web server – Even if there is no direct link to the backup file, a single configuration change or search engine could make your material accessible to the entire world.
  • File Transfer Protocol Site (FTP) – An FTP site allows users to transfer data from one computer to another over the Internet or through a network (e.g., iTunes)
  • Cloud providers – Legally restricted and other sensitive data should not be stored in an unauthorized cloud service, such as Dropbox, Google Drive, etc.

It’s best to encrypt sensitive data when it’s backed up. This helps protect the data in case the backup media itself is unintentionally disclosed.

Backing Up University Work-Related Data

Recommended options:

Do not make unnecessary copies of this data since it is already backed up. This can increase storage costs and potential for loss and liability.

Desktop encryption is also available for computers that handle high-risk, sensitive data.


How to Secure Removable Media

Securing your removable media (e.g., flash drives) is important because they can easily be stolen or damaged if they are not stored in a safe place. Follow these tips to secure your removable media:

  • If storing sensitive information, use a drive with built-in access control and encryption protection.
  • Lock up removable media when not in use.
  • Do not place them near magnets or other magnetic devices because they could destroy information.
  • Label them properly.
  • Be careful not to damage the media.
  • Do not dispose of removable media that contains important data without ensuring the destruction of the information. Remember that simple file deletion does not permanently erase files; in such cases, the information can still be restored. If the media contains sensitive information, reformat the media or physically break it.
  • Inventory the contents of your media on a regular basis and remove any files you no longer need.

How to Securely Delete Records

Electronic Records
When you delete a file, it is not completely erased—you are merely eliminating the reference to that file. The contents of the file will remain on your hard drive until they’re overwritten by other data. You should use shredding software to fully delete a file and prevent anyone from retrieving it. Free shredding software is available:

Before selling or donating old computers, make sure that sensitive data is removed. Files that are simply dragged to the trash can be easily recovered. Use a secure delete utility (such as those included with PGP and Norton Utilities) to wipe all hard drives in the system. It is best to set for multiple wipes, at least three passes. Or, you can remove and destroy the hard drive.

Free, secure IT equipment recycling is available to the University community for both departmental and personal equipment.

Paper Records

Retain paper files in accordance with the Policy on Retention of University Records. Be sure to shred or otherwise render unreadable confidential or legally restricted paper records. If they don’t contain confidential or legally restricted data, then be sure to recycle!

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