DARD Management Notes: Information Technology

Keep your electronic data backed up, you never know what could happen
Keep your electronic data backed up, you never know what could happen

Your electronic data is valuable – keep it safe!

Have you ever switched on your PC only to find the ‘blue screen of death’ realising your farm records, accountancy information or even family photos and videos are possibly lost forever? Every farm business owner should have an effective system in place to ensure against the loss of electronic data. All electronic storage devices such as hard drives, USB memory sticks, even CD/DVDs have a limited life span. What are you doing to protect your data?

Keep a copy

As an absolute minimum keep a copy of all your important data somewhere other than on your computer’s hard drive. This job has never been easier as modern operating systems such as Windows 10 or Apple OSX have software built in to automatically backup your data to another location.

When choosing which data to backup consider data which cannot be replaced such as farm records, financial details or personal photos. Save space and time by leaving out data such as installed applications or downloaded music.

Where do I keep my data?

If you are protecting your data from potential computer hard drive failure, simply copying your data to an external hard drive is the simplest option. External hard drives are inexpensive, easy to use and come in many capacities. If you are concerned about theft or damage to your computer system you may want to keep your backup in a different location. If somebody steals your PC or laptop chances are they will also take any connected hard drive which means you can say goodbye to your backup. For added protection and convenience consider a network enabled backup or storage solution such as a Networked Attached Storage (NAS). A NAS, which is essentially a hard drive that is connected to your home network, can be placed somewhere secure. It is capable of providing a backup solution for multiple computers, providing centralised file storage and having a degree of protection against hard drive failure.

Keeping data in the cloud!

If you do not like the idea of managing a NAS on your network another option is to use one of the many cloud storage providers. Cloud storage means your data is kept in an online data storage centre. Therefore if your data is lost or stolen at home, you can retrieve it from the cloud. Cloud solutions, such as Microsoft Onedrive, Dropbox, Google Drive and Apple iCloud all offer similar services. You can automatically send data to your cloud from multiple devices, including mobile devices. You can also share your data with others and can access your data from anywhere you have an internet connection, so you don’t have to be at home to see your data.

Cloud solutions however need a good quality internet connection to work effectively because you are uploading and downloading data to your cloud provider. As you are relying on a third party provider to ensure your data is kept safe and secure it is important to choose a provider you can depend on.

You don’t have to pick only one solution

An effective backup solution can include more than one of the options described above. You may wish to employ a combination of cloud and local storage. Data which is not accessed or changed often, such as old photos, could be copied to a hard drive and stored somewhere safe such as a friend or family members home. Data which is accessed and updated more often, such as information coming from a dairy parlour or monthly weight records of your animals, could be put into the cloud where it will be easy to access even when you are away from the farm.

If you don’t have a backup solution in place, now is the time to think about the best option for you. It is too late when the computer hard drive fails or the laptop gets dropped on the ground. Can you afford to lose your data?