Back up everything to avoid total loss

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 01 February, 2005, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 01 February, 2005, 12:00am

I bought my sister a Sony Clie about a year ago and she loves it. In fact, she uses it more than a personal computer because she finds it far easier. I have told her to sync it with a computer but she will not.

She religiously recharges it and in general takes good care of it. She even bought a Memory Stick and sometimes moves important data onto it.

Well, as I expected, it crashed and she has lost the names, addresses and telephone numbers of hundreds of people. It is really bad and I do not have the heart to tell her 'I told you so'.

Is there a simple way to solve this kind of problem? I looked for some kind of backup software but it is too confusing.

Name and address supplied

Backup has long been one of my favourite subjects, particularly for those who are new to computers. There is something about the advertising one sees from the main vendors that makes you think nothing will ever go wrong.

The truth is that computers are terribly volatile. It has always amused me that those who know the most about them trust them the least.

Without naming names, we all know how reliable personal computer systems are.

I checked one of Sony's many websites and there is indeed an application that should be available to you - Memory Stick media backup. It may be that it was not installed when your sister began using the device.

Obviously, you will want to have a look and see what you can find on the discs that came with it.

My views on this are simple. Back up your most important data on more than one system and if you are really paranoid about contact lists, print the list out every now and then and save it. It pays to be paranoid, of course. If you can sync a Palm device (or a Pocket PC), you should do so often. The data on your computer should then be burnt to a CD-Rom or a DVD-Rom and stored.

If you want to be extra careful, get a Gmail account or an Apple .Mac account and save data there. This serves as an excellent back-up available to you anywhere.

If you are travelling, carrying a print-out of your contact list may be a good thing to do, as well. You must be careful if it has any private telephone numbers, of course. You do not want anybody finding that private number for Julia Roberts.

Still, keeping a print-out will save you from the day the electricity dies. (Perhaps you can hide it in a suitcase - that really is a bit like James Bond, of course).

If you decide to keep your data in a public place, you may also want to think about encrypting it. This can be a bit of a pain and is a subject for another time, but you must think about how private your data is. When we speak of 'securely backing up data', we do not necessarily mean simply copying it.

Some companies have systems to encrypt data so it does not get in the wrong hands.

Remember, if you lose a mobile phone or PDA, whoever finds it will probably have access to everything in it, unless you have taken measures to protect your data.

If you do not wish to take these precautions, I can only ask how important the loss of all your data would be. Then again, you could ask your sister.