File copier that may become your life saver

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 16 September, 1997, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 16 September, 1997, 12:00am

After learning to turn on a computer and bang away at the keyboard, most people are told to 'back up'.

This does not mean to go in reverse, it simply means save your data. Most of us promptly ignore the advice.

Until, of course, the day comes when you have a 30-page document that must be sent to the head office in an hour and you are just finishing the last sentence. Then the hard disk crashes.

Everything you have ever been told about backing up your data is true.

If we are talking about small amounts of data, then you can save copies on your hard disk and two sets of floppy disks, one to be kept where you work and another elsewhere, just in case the office (or house) burns down.

If you think that is amusing or possibly even a wee bit paranoid, think about one thing - how much would it cost - in time as well as money - to replace the data? These days, however, we tend to have rather more data on our machines than will fit on a floppy.

A popular solution that is not too expensive is the Iomega Zip drive.

Firms such as Apple Computer and Dell are building them into their boxes. External drives also are not too dear.

Backing up your data, however, is still not all that easy. The one thing they forgot to tell you when you bought your personal computer is that you are the 'sysadmin', or system administrator.

Because you are your own sysadmin, you are responsible for everything that happens. If you do not back up your system and it crashes, then you have only yourself to blame. Unfortunately, you cannot fire yourself.

There are basically two methods of backing up your data and both involve copying everything on to another medium; floppy disk, another hard disk, magnetic optical or tape.

One method is a simple straight copy, everything is a digital image of what is on the hard disk.

The other method is to compress the data, which is used for large amounts of data when the medium being copied to is small.

Compressing data is, however, not for everyone. If you are unlucky, it is possible to have a disk full of compressed data that is unusable.

When you save a document, it is wise to save it in two formats: the normal word processor format as well as 'text only', an option virtually all word processors have.

The advantage of this is that if you have a problem, you can always take the text-only file and put it into any other machine or word processor.

DoubleZIP is a program that helps organise this process. It is fairly straight forward, if you have some idea of what you are doing.

If you have never done anything like this before, you may be slightly confused by the menus, but the instructions will help if you read them without panicking.

DoubleZIP gives you the choice of compressing or not compressing files.

Many data files, such as images, already may be in a compressed format and there is often little to gain by trying to compress them even more.

Text files and text database files are the best candidates. Once again, it is the user who must decide, but it certainly would not hurt to do both.

(Overkill, you say? How important is your data?) One of the best things about the program is its ability to set up 'sync' parameters. These are simply files that tell the program how to work.

If you have a Document folder and you want to back it up in a folder on a Zip disk called 'MyDocs', then you can save this and run it when you need to.

Once you get the hang of this kind of thing, it works quite well.

Despite what we may think, most of us are not good at sysadmin. DoubleZIP gives us the chance to be a lot better, if we want to be. It cannot be made much easier than this.

PROS AND CONS Product: DoubleZIP from Kiss Software Corporation Platform: Windows95 Price: $239 Tested on: Dell Dimension XPS H266 Pros: Fairly straightforward process Cons: Possibly confusing, ugly interface