What a Laptop Reformat Reminded Me About Data Backups


Sep, 13

What a Laptop Reformat Reminded Me About Data Backups

A lot of my blog posts come from best practices I pick up talking with VARs and MSPs who are experts at selling, installing, and maintaining IT hardware, software, and services. Today’s post is based on the past day and a half I spent reformatting my laptop following a progressively deteriorating Windows registry that slowly crippled my applications over the past week. (Side Note: I have yet to find a registry cleaner software that can fix these issues once they start. If anyone has, I’d love to hear about it.)

First, I want to say that I’m pretty good about backing up my files. I copy all my important documents and files to multiple external sources. However, I’ve been unable to perform an image backup on my laptop due to a common error that exists with Windows 7 and external hard drives over 2 TB (You can read more about this issue here, which deserves its own article as to how Microsoft was supposedly able to correct it for Windows 8, but it’s been unable to resolve it with Windows 7 — two service packs and several hot fixes later. Gimme a break!)

So, what’s the big deal, as long as you’re able to get all your files back, right? I was reminded yesterday — after spending hours loading discs, downloading drivers, and installing literally hundreds of Windows updates — why performing a system reformat from scratch is a huge deal! After using the restore disc that came with my Samsung Series 7  NP700 laptop, which is supposed to take my computer back to its “original factory settings,” I discovered that the factory decided to take a few shortcuts and left the burden of installing all the drivers that control everything from the wireless radio to the function keys all up to me to find online, download, and install. In all, I had to find and install more than a dozen drivers before I could even get the screen display to work properly (it looked like it was running in Safe Mode with large text and low resolution), get access to the Internet (it didn’t recognize the wireless radio nor the Ethernet connection), and even get back to what I thought would have been a baseline.

After spending hours getting the drivers figured out, then more hours dealing with all the Windows updates and restarts, I was finally ready to install my applications, including Microsoft Office, Adobe CS6, QuickBooks, Skype, and several others.

All said, this process took more than 12 hours of my time, and it could have easily been prevented had I purchased a $50 backup program like Acronis True Image 2014 — or even if I had used a free program like Macrium Reflect to perform an image of my laptop BEFORE the registry took a nose dive. The bottom line is that I had to re-learn a lesson I thought I already knew: Ignoring something that isn’t working right and hoping you can deal with it later is never a good strategy.

So, enough about my issues and having to learn the hard way that file backups alone are a poor backup strategy. Now that more and more of your customers are using laptops as their primary workstations instead of traditional PCs, (37.2% of the workforce will be mobile by 2015, according to IDC) how confident are you that if a customer had a laptop that needed restored, you’d be able to re-image it in a reasonable amount of time? Unless you and your customer are okay gambling with 12 hours of downtime, it’s better to address any potential vulnerabilities now rather than hoping things will continue working as they always have.

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