THE BEST BACKUP STRATEGY FOR YOUR RESEARCH DATA

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1 ICRAF Research Support Unit Technical Note 1a THE BEST BACKUP STRATEGY FOR YOUR RESEARCH DATA Wim Buysse and Paul Maina July 2005 ICRAF Research Support Unit World Agroforestry Centre PO Box 30677, GPO Nairobi, Kenya Tel.: or Fax: or

2 Without these data, dying isn t just tragic, it s useless. - Dr. Susan McAlester (Saffron Burrows) in the movie Deep Blue Sea (an Alan Richie -Tony Ludwig - Akiva Goldsman Production, directed by Renny Harlin), moments before she went to get her zip disks in a sinking marine research station. A shark killed her before the end of the movie. Unfortunately, the movie was unclear about what happened to the zip disks. We fear the data are lost; a zip disk is not a good choice of storage medium for backing up research data in a cold saltwater environment infested with killer sharks. Correct citation: Wim Buysse and Paul Maina The best backup strategy for your research data. ICRAF Research Support Unit Technical Note No 1a. ICRAF World Agroforestry Centre Nairobi, Kenya. 49 pp. Copyright 2005 ICRAF World Agroforestry Centre This publication is the intellectual property of the International Centre for Research in Agroforestry. While use of the information it contains and its reproduction is encouraged, the content should not be republished in any way for commercial purposes without the permission of the publishers. The publisher and the author make no representation, express or implied, with regard to the accuracy of the information contained in this book and cannot accept any legal responsibility or liability for any errors or omissions that may be made. All terms mentioned in this publication that are known to be trademarks or service marks have been appropriately capitalized. The publisher and the author cannot attest to the accuracy of this information. Use of a term in this publication should not be regarded as affecting the validity of any trademark or service mark. ICRAF The World Agroforestry Centre PO Box GPO Nairobi Kenya

3 Contents Contents...i 1 Introduction Data disasters Summary Step 1: Organize your data Store or move all your data in a hierarchical set of subfolders Be careful when using the My Documents folder Change the default File Location in MS Office Change the default file location in GenStat Change the default file location in SPSS Step 2: Add documentation to your data Give your data files descriptive and meaningful names Make use of the File Properties Creating File Properties in MS Office The use of File properties The Find Fast utility: using Office 2000 on a Windows 98 operating system Windows Indexing Service for Windows 2000 and later operating systems Setting up the Windows Indexing Service Finding files or information in files Moving on Prompting for file properties when saving MS Office documents File properties of other file types Step 3: select an appropriate storage medium Magnetic media The Floppy disk The zip disk External Hard Drives Optical media (CD and DVD) Solid state (electronic) media USB flash drives Step 4: copy your data to the storage medium and put it on a safe place What exactly is a safe place? Storage over the network Remote storage over the Internet A possible side step 3b: data compression and specialised software Data compression Using Winzip Automatically updating your zip-file Some other software Other data compression software Backing up in MS Outlook Microsoft backup Other precautions Viruses Recovering deleted files Retrieval after a crash Sources Internet-sources...49 i

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5 1 Introduction This technical note is written to serve as background and reference material for some of the data management courses, developed by ICRAF in collaboration with the Statistical Services Centre of the University of Reading. You can browse through or download the data management course at Look under Data Management. The technical note is an updated version of A Strategy against Data Disasters (Buysse, 2001). We decided to put everything dealing with how to make a backup of research data into this first technical note, and to put all the things an average computer user should know about his computer into a second technical note. The first aim of the technical notes written by the Research Support Unit is to give some deeper background information on issues covered during training workshops and courses. We try however to write the technical notes in such a way that you can read it on your own without having to attend a data management course. The target audience are graduate and post-graduate students and researchers. We target mainly students and researchers working in the broad field of natural resources management. But most technical notes can be of use for researchers working in any discipline. We also target especially students and researchers working in a rather low-tech environment as can be found in many government research institutes and universities in developing countries. Typical for such an environment are low number of computers per person ratios, a large number of the available computers are not recent models, there is usually no Intranet and limited access to the Internet and as a result of all this, the computer skills of staff is underdeveloped. Usually there are no specialised IT people around. But anyhow, our advice is not to rely on the IT guys and girls when it comes to your research data. Making backups of your research data is your responsibility as much as all the other steps in the research project. Therefore the strategy you develop to backup and safeguard your research data is the best strategy. Peter Muraya from ICRAF Research Support Unit who has taken the use of Windows Indexing Services beyond imagination and uses words such as philosophy when talking about data management, introduced us to the Windows Indexing Service and made many valuable remarks. VVOB, the Flemish Association for Development Cooperation and Technical Assistance, contributed significantly to the staff time spent on the writing of this technical note. They also financed the translation in French. 1

6 2 The best backup strategy for your research data

7 ICRAF Research Support Unit Technical Note No 1a 2 Data disasters There exist much literature on perceptions of risk. Most people will overestimate the chance of relatively rare disasters such as earthquakes and plane crashes. They underestimate the chance of common problems. In particular they underestimate the chance of their computer crashing, a probability that approaches 1. Power fluctuations and dirt can damage the hard disk, and the read/write mechanism can just wear out. In addition, the disk can get too fragmented, slow down and this and several other reasons leads to corrupted files, lost files, inaccessible hard disk or worse. On top of that there are different categories of human errors: loss of a laptop, deleting files, deleting parts of files. It can also happen on purpose by unscrupulous persons, jealous colleagues or disgruntled employees: theft of laptops, deleting files or damaging computers on purpose, And then of course there is always a chance of fire, water damage, Last but not least there is an ever growing group of malware : computer viruses, Trojan horses, backdoors, spyware, The goal of this note is not to protect you from a complete system failure. This is the quite complex job of the better skilled system administrator. The goal of this note is to protect you from loss of data from your current research activities. In a way, the goal of this note is to protect you from yourself since it involves some discipline. The only way to avoid unrecoverable data loss is to backup regularly in an organised way. 3

8 4 The best backup strategy for your research data

9 ICRAF Research Support Unit Technical Note No 1a 3 Summary Backing up of your research data essentially involves four steps. First you organize your data in a logical way. You add sufficient documentation to your data files. Finally you put your data on a reliable storage medium and store this at safe place. In chapter 4 we show you the first step, how to organise your data in a logically structured set of subfolders within one folder D:\Data. We show how to change the settings of the default file location for some of the major software you probably use: MS Office, GenStat and SPSS. We warn about potential problems when using the My Documents folder. With your data logically ordered in subfolders you can easily locate the folder where a specific data file is stored. But that folder might contain so many files that you still don t easily find what you re looking for. In chapter 5 we show how to add documentation to the data at the level of individual files. This involves naming your files but also creating File Properties. We show how to perform advanced searches on your computer in different operating systems. We focus mainly on using the Windows Indexing Service for computers running Windows 2000 or Windows XP. Again you can modify the default settings of MS Office, this time to prompt for adding documentation to the File Properties the first time you save a file. Your data are now ordered in a structured and logical way. And you have added sufficient documentation to each file. The only thing you have to do now to make a backup is to copy the folder containing your data ( D:\Data ) and paste it onto a storage medium. In chapter 6 we review the advantages and disadvantages of some common storage media. We conclude that CD-RWs (rewritable CDs) are the best medium for making personal back-ups of research data and CD-Rs are the best medium for long-term storage of data at the end of a research project and for distribution of data, especially to locations where Internet connections are not yet well developed. By now you successfully made a backup and will be able to retrieve your data and still make sense of them, even if you loose your computer. But you still have to be aware that also your backup can be damaged. In chapter 7 we give some advice on handling your backups properly and keeping them at a safe place. We promote a system of rotating backups and give some considerations on very long term storage of CDs. For those working in a place with good IT infrastructure, we look into some possibilities of Intranet and Internet. If you have a huge amount of data but only backup media of limited storage capacity, you first need to compress your data. Instead of copying the folder D:\Data and all of its contents onto a CD-R, we first compress the folder. In chapter 8 we show how to use WinZip 9.0 to create one zip file containing everything from D:\Data. Next we copy the zip file on a CD-RW and keep the backup at a safe place. We also show more advanced options such as regular automatic backups and show some other software. When you reach the end of this Technical Note, you are able to make backups and customize your backup process. If you don t feel completely comfortable about your computer skills, follow everything to the letter. If you feel comfortable, adapt and modify to suit your personal needs. There are however many more issues that can affect the safekeeping of your valuable research data. We just give a quick introduction in chapter 9. 5

10 6 The best backup strategy for your research data

11 4 Step 1: Organize your data. ICRAF Research Support Unit Technical Note No 1a In this step you want to organize your data in a structured logical way. Physically, you put them in a structured set of subfolders within a folder. Give those folders a logical name that is easy to understand. It will make life easier when trying to find a file. This data organization can take some time, but you only have to do it once. The moment you have your data structured, change the default location where some common software saves its files. 4.1 Store or move all your data in a hierarchical set of subfolders. Create several subfolders in a logical way on your hard disk. Create one subfolder per project, research activity, In each folder, create several logical subfolders (Fig. 4.2). For instance a folder for data files, one for reports, one for analysis, Fig. 4.1 Using the default folders like My Documents doesn t help a lot. Fig. 4.2 Storing data in a hierarchical and logical system of folders and subfolders will make further data management easy. Use Windows Explorer to create a new folder. You start Windows Explorer by clicking somewhere on a shortcut or by right clicking on the Start button and choosing Explore (Fig. 4.3). You create a new folder by choosing File => New => Folder in Windows Explorer (Fig. 4.4). By default the new folder will be named New Folder. Rename it with a meaningful name as seen above. Fig. 4.3 Right clicking on the Start button and choosing Explore will start Windows Explorer Fig. 4.4 Creating a new folder in Windows Explorer If you have a D-drive, store all your data in a folder on this D-drive, for instance under D:\Data (since D stands for Data). The D-drive is usually the biggest drive or partition. This means there will be enough space. It will also speed up the process of trying to find a file since you always have to look in the same folder and its subfolders. Finally, you avoid mixing up data files with program files that are normally stored on the C-drive. Of course, if you don t have a D-drive, store your data on the C-drive, for instance under C:\data. 7

12 The best backup strategy for your research data You can easily see the size of a drive with Windows Explorer. If you select the drive letter in Windows Explorer (Fig. 4.5 ), you will see the size of the drive. In some older Windows versions you will first have to right-click on the drive letter in Windows Explorer and select Properties (Fig. 4.6). This way you can also check out the size of a subfolder. Fig. 4.5 Selecting a drive within Windows Explorer gives you its size. Fig. 4.6 You can select the properties of a folder with Windows Explorer when you rightclick on the folder. 4.2 Be careful when using the My Documents folder 8 Since the release of the operating system Windows 95, Microsoft applications save all files by default in a folder called My Documents. Also some non-microsoft applications consider this folder as the default location to store their files. So, instead of creating a folder D:\Data as was advised in chapter 4.1, you could also store your hierarchical set of subfolders in the My Documents folder. However, you have to be aware of some potential problems when using the My Documents folder. First, the main reason why we advise to store all your data in a hierarchical set of subfolders in one folder is that it will become very easy to make backups (see chapter 6). You then just have to copy the folder and all of its contents. A lot of non-microsoft applications however use other default locations to store their files. Examples are some common statistical software packages like SPSS and GenStat. Either way, if you use My Documents or D:\Data, you still have to change the default file location of that software. Second, by default the My Documents folder is stored on the C-drive. Quite often, computer hard drives are partitioned into a C and a D-drive. The C-drive usually is the smallest partition and also contains all program files. So, if you also start storing all your research data, documents and literature on the C-drive, you will soon lack space. Third and most important. The My Documents folder is mapped differently for each user of the same computer. The actual location is within the profile directory of a user. On computers running Windows 2000 or XP, the path is: C:\ Documents and Settings\[Username]\My Documents This still doesn t have to be a problem when you re the only person using a specific computer. The moment there is more than one user profile on a computer, you have an IT person in your organization with administrator rights on your computer or your computer is connected to a LAN (Local Area Network), things can become complicated. For instance, certain security settings can prevent one user accessing files that are located in the My Documents folder of another user. We assume that data of a person working in a research institute are property of the research institute. This means other researchers must be able to access them. Quite often a group of people are

13 ICRAF Research Support Unit Technical Note No 1a working on the same data. Also if an administrator deletes a user account (for example if the person doesn t work at the institute anymore), then also all information in his or her My Documents folder will be deleted. Finally, since the My Documents folder is an integrated part of MS Windows and MS Office, it is also vulnerable to viruses that target this operating system or software. Most technical writers on Windows or MS Office, advise to store all your documents and data in the My Documents folder. We advise to save your data in another folder unless you realize very well why you want to use the My Documents folder. 4.3 Change the default File Location in MS Office Once you ve organised your file structure, you can change the default location where each software application is storing its files. You could customize the My Documents icon on the desktop so it maps to another location, but the remarks on security settings remain. We advise to change the default file location to D:\data (or any folder you dedicate to storing research data) in each of the software applications you use. In this chapter we give some examples of how to do this in MS Office In MS Word, choose Tools => Options and click on the [File location] tab (Fig. 4.7). Highlight the line that gives the location of documents and click the [Modify] button. Fig. 4.7 The File Locations tab in the Options menu screen of MS Word. The default location of word documents has been changed to D:\Data Fig. 4.8 When you now want to open or save a word document, you will be prompted to look first in the D:\Data folder In MS Excel, choose Tools => Options but this time click on the [General] tab (Fig. 4.9 ). Type your desired location in the Default file location box. Use the same procedure in MS Access (Fig. 4.10). 9

14 The best backup strategy for your research data Fig. 4.9 The General tab in the Options menu screen of MS Excel. The default location of Excel workbooks has been changed to D:\Data Fig The General tab in the Options menu screen of MS Access. The default location of Access databases has been changed to D:\Data 4.4 Change the default file location in GenStat To change the default location for saving files in GenStat, choose Options =>Working directory or press [F6]. This works for the GenStat Discovery Editition (Fig ). Fig Clicking Working Directory in the Options menu lets you change the default file location in most GenStat versions. In other versions, later than version 5, the procedure is similar to the one described above. In version 8 for instance, choose Tools => Working directory or press [F6]. In this version however you can set several working directories. 4.5 Change the default file location in SPSS Initially the contents of all SPSS windows are held as temporary files. Only when you choose File => Save, you really save your data in a file. If you save a file for the first time, make sure you have selected the Data Editor window, otherwise you might only save the contents of the Output Viewer window. The location of this temporary folder can be changed in SPSS version 12 by choosing Edit => Options and typing another folder in the Temporary directory box. However, the only reason you would probably do this is when you run out of space on the drive where the default temporary folder is located. 10

15 ICRAF Research Support Unit Technical Note No 1a Fig Changing the temporary directory in the Options window of SPSS for Windows 12.0 If you choose File => Save or File => Open, SPSS will look in the default folder, this is the folder where SPSS has been installed, usually C:\Program files\spss. We don t consider it good practice to mix data files and program files in the same folder and we would like to put our data files in a custom folder such as D\Data. Unfortunately there is no straightforward way to change the default folder for data files in SPSS, at least not up to version 12. It is however possible to work around the problem. Usually you start SPSS on a Windows 2000 computer by clicking on the [Start] button and choosing Programs => SPSS for Windows => SPSS 12.0 for Windows (or the version of SPSS you are using). You can create a shortcut to SPSS on the desktop and start SPSS by double-clicking on the icon. For this you first have to create a desktop shortcut using Windows Explorer. Open Windows Explorer and go to the folder where the application spsswin.exe is located. Usually this is under C:\Program files\spss. In Windows Explorer, right-click on spsswin.exe and choose Create shortcut (Fig. 4.13). The resulting shortcut Shortcut to spsswin.exe is a very small file (1 Kb) that you will find at the bottom of the list in windows explorer. Right-click on it and cut it (Fig. 4.14). Fig Creating a shortcut in Windows Explorer to the SPSS application. Fig Cutting the shortcut to spsswin.exe Paste the shortcut onto the desktop. To continue, first open its properties by right-clicking on the shortcut you just pasted onto the desktop (Fig. 4.15). The properties windows of the spsswin.exe shortcut has 3 tabs. Click on the [Shortcut] tab. One of the boxes defines where SPSS will start looking for files. Change the default location with the location of your choice, for instance D:\data as in Fig

16 The best backup strategy for your research data Fig Right-click on the desktop shortcut to open its properties. Fig Change the default file location in the Start in box. If you now start SPSS by double-clicking on the desktop shortcut, data files will by default be opened from or saved in the D:\Data folder. If however you open SPSS by choosing Start => Programs => SPSS for Windows => SPSS 12.0 for Windows, SPSS will still by default open or save files in C:\Program files\spss 12

17 ICRAF Research Support Unit Technical Note No 1a 5 Step 2: Add documentation to your data With your data logically ordered in subfolders you can easily locate the folder where a specific data file is stored. But that folder might contain so many files that you still don t easily find what you re looking for. In this step we add documentation to the data at the level of individual files. This involves naming your files but also creating File Properties. We show how to perform advanced searches on your computer in different operating systems. 5.1 Give your data files descriptive and meaningful names Early DOS and Windows versions could only use a maximum of 11 characters to name files. This was because of limitations in the early versions of the FAT file system (see Technical Note 1b). Of the 11 characters, 8 were used for the filename and the last 3 were called the extension. These 3 characters were separated from the filename by a dot. If you wanted to name an Excel workbook containing yield data from an experiment with tomatoes, you could have named it something like tomyld.xls. With such a file name, any person who is not specialised in tomato yields needed a lot of imagination to figure out the contents of the file. The filename extension defines the generic type of a file; that is the software that created the file. Because this led to some problems and because non-windows operating systems like UNIX and Mac didn t have similar strict limitations, Microsoft introduced long filenames along with new file systems when it launched Windows 95. In theory it became possible to create file names of 255 characters and to use both uppercase and lowercase letters and to include spaces in the file name. There remain however some limitations. The file name has to start with a letter or figure and you cannot use special characters like / \ : =? " ; [ ], ^ (there are some slight differences between different file systems). In reality however it is not always possible to use 255 characters because of a combination of different very technical reasons (the length of the path name, the type of software you use to access the file, ). And such a long file name would be difficult to read on screen anyhow. So, for our practical purpose of documenting the contents of a file, we are more than happy when we can use several words in the file name. Rule Use long, descriptive and meaningful file names. But don t exaggerate the length of the file names. It is good practice to name the file containing the tomato yield data from our example as something like Tomato yield harvest year 1999.xls. This file name is only 34 characters but is long enough to understand what the file is about. Most software applications suggest default names when saving a file. MS Excel for instance suggests the default name Book1.xls, Book2.xls and so on (see Fig. 5.1). Also here of course, follow the rule and save the Excel files using long, descriptive and meaningful file names (see Fig. 5.2). 13

18 The best backup strategy for your research data Fig. 5.1 Default file names generated by MS Excel are confusing Fig. 5.2 Save the Excel files using long, descriptive and meaningful file names 5.2 Make use of the File Properties Creating File Properties in MS Office 2000 In Fig. 4.6 it was shown how to check the properties of a folder. Properties is something that exists since Windows 95. Object properties can apply to almost everything: files, folders, computers in a network, printers, etc. File properties are details about a file that help identify it. Within the MS Office 2000 package (containing applications such as MS Excel 2000, MS Word 2000 and MS Access 2000), there exist three distinct categories of File Properties: Automatically updated file properties These include statistics such as file size and the dates files are created and last modified. MS Office generates them automatically. See an example in Fig You can consult them in an MS Office application, for instance in MS Excel 2000, by choosing File => Properties and by clicking on the [Summary] tab. Fig. 5.3 Automatically updated file properties give information on file location, file type, size and when the file was created and accessed Fig. 5.4 An example of some preset file properties of an MS Excel 2000 spreadsheet 14 Preset file properties Choosing File => Properties in the same MS Excel 2000 file, but this time clicking on the [Summary] tab gives you a range of preset file properties (Fig. 5.4): title, subject, author, manager, company, category, keywords, comments, hyperlink base. You have to enter text in those boxes yourself. This is especially useful for assigning common information and keywords to a file.

19 ICRAF Research Support Unit Technical Note No 1a Custom file properties Under the [Custom] tab, you find a range of other file properties where you can either enter text in some of the boxes or create your own properties. In the example shown in Fig. 5.5), the researcher wanted to add information on who collected the data in the field and who entered the data in the spreadsheet. Fig. 5.6 shows how to add a custom file property. Do not forget to save the file after adding file properties or you loose your added or modified file properties. Fig. 5.5 Custom file properties Fig. 5.6 After clicking on the [Add] button, the Custom file property Data collection will be created. It will have the text value James Wambugi The use of File properties. Why make the extra effort of adding file properties to your data files if they have already a clear file name and are stored in the correct folder? You could argue there is no real need if the number of files is limited and the files remain in the same folder. However, once you copy them, rearrange the file folders, them to a colleague, etc., the link between the organisation of files and the individual files is broken. Assigning keywords and other information to the file properties ensures that this information is also stored at the file level, independent of where you save the file. Once you make a habit of assigning documentation to file properties, you can search more effectively for your research data files on your computer. However, the way you search for files depends on the version of MS Office and Windows you are using The Find Fast utility: using Office 2000 on a Windows 98 operating system. Office 97 and Office 2000 contain a file indexing utility Find Fast. Use this utility if your operating system is Windows 98. The Find Fast utility is not part of a default Office 2000 installation, so you have to check the option when installing. Find Fast scans your hard drive at regular times (by default every 2 hours) and builds a full-text index. This way you can easily find Office documents 15

20 The best backup strategy for your research data with complex custom searches, combining for instance file type and custom file properties. Look in the help of any Office program on how to set up Find Fast. Once set up, you can perform customized searches. Choose Start => Open Office Document, click on Tools in the new window and select Find (Fig. 5.7). Alternatively, choose File => Open in any MS Office application and you will get a similar window where you have to click on Tools and select Find. This will open a default find dialogue window (Fig. 5.8). An example would be to find the file of Fig. 5.6: an MS Excel file with data that were collected by James Wambugi. First we delete any criteria that are present in the find dialogue window (Fig. 5.8). Fig. 5.7 Starting a search using the Find Fast utility: choose Start => Open Office Document, click on Tools and select Find.. Fig. 5.8 The default find dialogue. First delete any criteria that are present. Next we add our first search criterion. The file we are looking is an MS Excel file and we look for it in all subfolders on the D-drive (Fig. 5.9). After the correct properties and conditions have been selected and the appropriate boxes have been checked, click on the [add to list] button to define the first criterion (Fig. 5.10). Fig. 5.9 We want to look for an Excel file somewhere on the D-drive. So we look for the condition of the property that the file is an MS Excel file. We also check the box to look in all subfolders of the D-drive. Fig After clicking the [Add to List] button, we have defined the first search criterion. We now refine the search by adding a second criterion that one of the file properties contains the text James (Fig. 5.11) and click on the [Find now] button to start the search (Fig. 5.12). 16

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