Back Up!

Backups. Do you make them? How regularly? And what do you make sure is saved?

Today’s task is designed to save you a lot of stress and heartache and involves something we frequently overlook – but shouldn’t!

This activity involves reviewing your backup system. It may be you already have one, in which case you can feel proud but double check you are saving everything. If, like most people, you don’t have a system, today’s your chance to put one in place.

Why do you need a backup system? Say you saved your work to your hard drive but this failed or your computer or laptop was stolen? It means you’ve lost everything unless your computer can be repaired or found.  It can mean hours spent having to trace past copies of documents and reports and then updating them. It means repeating work. And in worse case scenarios losing work completely.  That, in turn, is distressing; can set you back weeks or months on a project; or even result in losing contracts or jobs.

A back up system means setting aside a set time each day or week to ensure everything is not just saved, but backed up somewhere. Every time you save your work you should be saving it in more than one place. For example on your hard drive plus someone else’s and/or cloud storage.  This may be particularly important for materials that are priceless – undergraduate dissertations, PhD theses, grant proposals, CVs, photographs etc.

Remember anonymity and confidentiality is important, so identifiable information needs to be shared and saved with caution. And depending on where you’re working you may need to be familiar with GDPR (General Data Protection Regulation – if it exists in your country) when sharing and saving information.

If you are working within an organisation that has an IT department you can ask them about options for saving in multiple places. There may already be a backup system in place you are expected to abide by.  If you’re self-employed you may want to ask colleagues what they recommend and use.

Additional information about backing up, storing and managing data can be found at:

UK Data Archive
UK Data Service (links to other country resources for research data management)

A backup schedule can be done at the end of every day or every week. Certainly no less. For some projects you may even need to back up more frequently during the day. You may want to set up a reminder message on your phone or computer or stuck on your office wall or somewhere else you can’t miss in order to remind you to make sure everything is carefully saved.

If you’re working as a team ensure everyone else knows to do this (and that they actually make backups too!). Or you might want to appoint someone reliable to be responsible for this task. It may be necessary to do this if you’re someone like me who either forgets to do things; or if you can’t consistently save work or struggle with power outages and connectivity issues. I’ve found having colleagues help remind me or share responsibility for backups and records means nothing is lost.

Admittedly this isn’t an exciting job, but it’s one that may well save you in so many ways. We hear so much about healthy plans for New Year – healthy eating, exercise and so on. Your best healthy habit as a researcher is backing everything up.

If you’ve ever lost your work you might want to share your tales of woe in the comments or via the hashtag #ResearcherRenew on Threads or on LinkedIn.

2 responses to Back Up!

  1. Lesley Mitchell

    An aphorism in the IT world is that you don’t actually have backups, unless you’ve tested them.

    Which is to say that it’s not enough to just *make* backups. You’ve got to be sure you can restore them, and the only way to be sure is to test the process.

  2. Letting go #researcherrenew – Research Adventures

    […] to follow though I didn’t feel it was necessary to reflect on the others, which included backing up documents, (thankfully, I already do this and it came in handy when 2 computers decided to die right before a […]

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