Five data-related things to do before leaving for the summer

Here are just a few quick things you need to do as you prepare to leave for the summer.

Back up your data

We’re almost done with another semester. As you get ready to leave Emory and head out for your summer adventures, please take a moment to back up your data. You should make a copy of everything in your home directory. If you are an Emory Law faculty or staff member, you have access to what we call “Drive H:”, which is your home directory on the server. It’s there just for things like this. Make a copy of the files that you care about and copy them up to the H: drive. If you need help with this process, please ask and ELS IT will be delighted to give you a hand.

Data stored on the H: drive is stored on an industrial-strength array of disks and  is backed up to tape daily, weekly, and monthly. Monthly tapes are periodically stored off-site. Only you and the IT staff can read the data stored on your H: drive on the server. If you have super-confidential data that you need to save to the server, use a password on it. Then we can’t even see it.

Data stored on the other mapped drives (“L:”, “M:”, etc.) is also backed up and protected.

If you are concerned about storing data on the server, or if you are a student and don’t have as much space on the server as the faculty and staff, please back up your data to an external drive. You can use an external disk drive or an external thumb drive if you don’t have a lot of data to back up. Faculty and staff – we can help you purchase an external hard drive for your data. As an aside, we often purchase items like this from Newegg. They are an excellent online retailer, with good pricing and extensive reviews of products. Plan on spending $75 to $100 for an external drive in the 500GB – 1TB range. Alternatively, if you really want your data with you at all times and you can live with higher prices and lower capacities in exchange for portability, consider an Ironkey secure USB key. However, we really recommend that you not carry your data backup on you. It’s too easy to leave it somewhere. That’s one of the reasons that we recommend that you use the Ironkey, rather than a traditional USB key if you have to carry your data around.

Other backup alternatives include data synchronization services like Dropbox and box.net and more traditional online data backup services like BackBlaze, JungleDisk, CrashPlan and Mozy. All of these services are fine – what’s more important is that you pick one and use it.

 

Create a plan and possibly get software for backing up your data from now on

Now that you have some ideas of where you can put your data, you need a plan. How are you going to back up your data? One of the great things about the online services is that they just run in the background, backing up your data whenever your computer is connected to the net. If you’re the kind of person who doesn’t always remember that the trash gets picked up on Tuesdays and you have to take it out the night before, then you should probably choose one of the online services. Faculty and staff – submit a help request if you would like help configuring BackBlaze – we can help with that. Note that most online backup systems take several days to get all of your local data backed up the first time. After that, changes are copied almost instantly.

If you’re just going to copy your data up to our servers, you can just build that into your Friday afternoon set of activities; again, the ELS IT staff can help. Just let us know.

If you bought an external drive and you’re using Windows, your drive may have come with software that helps automate the backup process. If not, Windows 7 comes with a built-in and improved backup program. Windows XP has the venerable NT backup tool built in. Because of limitations in these built-in tools, there is an entire market devoted to additional backup tools for Windows. One of the most well-regarded third-party backup apps is Acronis True Image Home. It sells for a very reasonable $49.95. It allows you to schedule backups and provides fine-grained control of what is backed up. So, if you’re a Windows user and you don’t want to use online backup, we recommend that you buy a 500GB or larger external drive and Acronis True Image. The total cost should be in the neighborhood of $130.

This brings us to Mac users. Buy an external drive. Plug it in. Turn on Time Machine. That’s it. Time Machine is built in. It’s very cool. It just works. It backs up everything. The only thing you have to remember is to plug the external drive in. Do that and you can get back to your regular life. Really – I think Time Machine is one of the reasons to buy a Mac.

Change your Emory password

You should change your password. Really. Some of our users have not changed their password in years. It’s time to change it. I just changed mine. Some of the older and simpler passwords in use on campus can be cracked in less than 10 seconds by a modern computer. Here are the guidelines from the University:

Emory Password Guidelines (minimum standards):

Your password must meet the following conditions:

  • Must be between 6 – 32 characters long.
  • Must contain one upper case letter and one lower case letter.
  • Must contain one number or one special character.

To change your password, visit http://password.service.emory.edu/ and change away. It is also a good idea to change your password after you’ve been on any sort of extended trip. This will minimize the risk of someone getting your credentials as a result of the time you used that open wireless network in Istanbul.

Update your software and system while you’re connected to Emory’s speedy network

Emory has a very fast connection to the global internet. Use it. Update all your software – before your trip to Istanbul. Make sure that your Windows system is up-to-date and that Word is up to date. Update your Mac while on the network. If you have any questions about how to do this, just ask.

Inventory your data – get rid of the old stuff

Do you have an old laptop sitting in the corner of your office? How about a camera? iPad? Drawer full of thumb drives? Make a list of where all of your data is and make a plan for consolidating, pruning it, or destroying it. It’s hard to know what you’ve lost unless you know what you have. If it’s time to wipe the old laptop or reformat the thumb drives full of old outlines or work-related material, take a moment to do it. If you’re considering donating your old equipment to someone, wipe the drive clean of data before donating it. It’s easy to do with tools that we can give you.

Conclusion

These are just some starting points. I know that there are a bunch of other things that we can all do to make our data-driven lives run a little bit more smoothly. Know some good tips? Share with the rest of us in the comments!

 

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