Backup Irreplaceable Data Rewrite

About eighteen months ago, I started working on an article about backup strategies for computer users. A few months after I put the finishing touches on that opus, it was published in the Quorum Magazine. That is a little-known publication put out by our local chapter of the CAI. Local means Coachella Valley and CAI means Community Associations Institute. Neither of those facts has much to do with what I am about to say. What I am trying to say here is that I’ve done this before and it is worth doing it again, with new emphasis provided by recent events. If the CAI is still running the data-backup technology I installed for them, they are about as well protected from data loss as any business in this valley. The only company I know of that has better protection is Rouzell Enterprises, Inc. Yes, that's me.

Recent events, as mentioned above, include two computer thefts and one computer crash, along with just some strange behavior that is causing some anxiety. The first three result in irretrievable data-loss, while that last one presents a challenge, but will be resolved. Here’s the thing; data backup should be one of the first few things you install and configure on a new computer. Very few computer users will not create data that is irreplaceable. I’ve met a few myself, but I’m on the other side of the spectrum, with tens of gigabytes of data that is important to me. My stuff is protected at least two or three different ways and I’m going to share with you three strategies I use for this process. Each has its merits and each has its cost and return on investment.

Whenever I talk about data backup, I talk about return on investment. It only takes a moment to draw the analogy to data restoration. There is no other purpose to backing up your data, except certainty that you can retrieve it when necessary. This is the bottom line, right in the middle of this article. That being said, here is method one - synchronization.

After a brief review of cloud-based backup services, including well known names like Mozy and Carbonite, I settled on SugarSync. You may already know why, based on the name. The biggest names in online backup are focused on ease of use, “set it and forget it” installation and configuration. For me, I chose synchronization, so I get backup and restore. In essence, that is what happens - my data is backed up to the cloud, then “restored” to a directory on another computer. Actually, there are three other computers. The likelihood of data loss is further reduced by the fact that each computer lives in a different environment. One is at home, one in my office, one is in a home office in another city and one is a laptop. The chances of all four computers being lost, stolen, or dying simultaneously are pretty slim. Even with all of that certainty in my case, I’ll tell you about method two - disk image backup to a local external drive.

I’ve backed up each of my computers (at least once) by creating an image of the entire drive, which creates a file to be stored on another disk. Given that hard drives today hold hundreds or thousands of gigabytes of data and I only have tens of gigs to preserve, there’s plenty of room for this method. I’ve been through a few computers in the last decade and I have images of those drives stored somewhere on other drives. For this, I use a product called ShadowProtect desktop, made by StorageCraft. It’s not cheap, but it’s easy to understand and run and it can be used for continuous incremental updates. The only drawback here is that you really should store your backup drive in a location other than right next to your computer. One of the victims of computer theft had his backup drive stolen along with his primary computer. He will not be restoring his lost data from that drive.  That’s the problem with local backup. Which leads us to method three.

You can get a 16 or 32 GB USB drive with a backup program built into it. This handy little gadget provides the simplest method of protection. You plug it in, answer a few questions, and in a few minutes you’ll have all of your important documents in your hand. The downside is, it is a handy little gadget, which means it’s very easy to lose. You must now protect it with all of the fervor commensurate with the value of the data on it. That means lock it in a safe, or at least keep it as safe as you would your car keys or your wallet. In other words, know where it is and don’t misplace it. Lose this little gadget and your backup strategy is pointless.

That’s it for now. I could beat this up a bit more by telling you how hard it is to put a dollar value on photos and documents you’ve created and stored on your computer. But, I won’t. I’ll simply repeat the basics here. Start backing up your data as soon as you realize it is valuable to you. Use one of the three methods mentioned here. Get a USB drive, use disk imaging software, or subscribe to some online backup service. Just do do something before your computer is lost, or stolen, or simply dies from any number of unnatural causes.

Warning - Phishing Hole Open

Twitter version: When malware creators learn to spell, we'll have to become more vigilant. Don't click that lnk! Proofread for clues. BR

Yesterday, I saw an email from "" with the subject line: "Brian Rouley sale bil 1308838083" - telling me that my account would be "debited of $436.00 USD" - with other non-sensical details. Like the numbers did not add up, the columns were not aligned and a return address in the header of - which did not match the From: information in line one. Enough said?

You know (if you know me), it's never enough. Don't click the link, don't send a reply, don't even think about clicking any of the live hyperlinks in this message. There is no bill (or bil), your account will not be debited for any of the four different dollar amounts (also malformed - 416.00$                 1              414.00$ ) and there is no tracking method or profile for you to manage. It is all bogus and almost clever, given that most people will want to know where they've inadvertently spent over $400 on something they don't remember. You didn't, so don't go looking for trouble.

Lucky for us, the email has enough evidence to convince even the casual reader that it cannot be real. Without the spelling errors, there are still many incongruities (there's a $10 word I've never used before...) to clue in even the least vigilant reader t0 the idea that whoever sent this email must be a moron. Clicking the links or looking for a way to avoid the "debited of" penalty will be an expensive move at this point. Blacklist the sender, trash the email and move on with your day.

That's all for now. Later today, I'll post the full content of the email and provide a link to it, so you can see for yourself how bad it really is!

MouseHelp at

Put Your John Hancock Here

Twitter version: To help your email recipients get back to you as quickly as possible, add a signature to your messages.

One complaint I often hear is this: "I've received this email message and I want to just pick up the phone and call, but there is no contact information here!" The solution is obvious and fairly easy to implement. You simply include a signature at the end of your message. To be clear, to create this solution for the recipient is simple for the sender. We will discuss Outlook here, but if you need to work with signatures on a Mac, just search: "apple mail signature file" to find pages that will walk you through what you need to do. Or, just search "email signature file" and you'll get a lot more information on how to use these things.

In Microsoft Outlook, depending on the version you are using, the instructions will be something like this. In MS Office Outlook 201o, click on New Email and then click the Insert tab at the top of the ribbon. Under Signature, you'll find a drop down menu and there you select, Signatures, to get started. Click New and name your signature file. This suggests further use of this feature, which I'll cover later. For now, just type a name and hit enter. Not much will change in the window, but the name of the Sig file will be in the top left window pane. Click in the lower window pane and let the artist in you begin this creative exercise.

I could go into many of the options available to you here, but I would rather cover the basics of a sig file. For instance, one of my signatures has this information:

Brian Rouley
(760) 902-5898

Yes, I am changing my company name to MouseHelp, but that is an entirely different subject. The point here is to observe the simplicity of name, email address and phone number. In my case you may have a company name and perhaps some catchphrase or slogan that supports your identity. For me, less is more, as I simply want you to go to my website, send email or call me and all of those options are presented with that signature. Enough said? Maybe not.

Earlier I alluded to the idea that you can use these things for more than one purpose. As an example, let's say that I want to advise my senders on the virtues of having a signature file in their email messages. I might create another sig file that includes those basic elements, but adds a paragraph:

Brian Rouley
(760) 902-5898

To help your email recipients get
back to you as quickly as possible,
add a signature to your messages.

In Outlook, I can choose which signature goes on each email, so adding this second paragraph to a second sig file allows me to encourage my senders and lead by example with my own signature. Pedantic, yes - self-serving, too, but if you want to be a crusader for change, start with your circle of influence, I say. I'm sure you can think of a number of other uses for lines of information you use often and each of those could constitute a sig file to be used where appropriate. Let your imagination work on this for a few moments and you'll probably come up with a handful of custom sig files you can apply to any situation.

That's all I'm going to say on this topic, except to say that you'll have to find the signature feature and how to make it work for you in whatever email client software you use. Even Gmail and other online services provide this facility. Learn to use it and you'll wonder how you ever lived without it.

Email is still a "killer app", but blogging is quickly becoming the best way to get the word out to more people. It's the difference between push and pull. Go figure. For me, I'll be sending emails to my client base, pushing out information about information they can pull from my blog. Take care and as always, enjoy!