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ITS encourages students to back up computers

Student backs up computer data to an external hard drive. Photo by Maddie Malat.

Assignments, games, music, presentations and more exist on a college laptop – until it crashes.

ITS recommends students and faculty back up their computers on a regular basis. Backing up important files to an external hard drive can save lots of time, money and pain.

Luke Papenfuss, student manager at ITS, said there is almost no way to retrieve lost files from a crashed computer. Recently, some people on campus have gotten a virus called Crypto Locker on their computer, which encrypts the computer and holds important files ransom.

ITS doesn’t pay that ransom.

“In those circumstances the only reliable way to get your data back is by having it backed up,” Papenfuss said.

Computer hackers aside, there are other reasons to back up a computer. Hard drives can fail without any warning. In the past month, Papenfuss has seen one faculty member with Crypto Locker, one faculty member with a failed hard drive and one student with a failed hard drive come into ITS. These people hadn’t backed their computers; most of their data was lost.

ITS worker Mark Switajski said there are many “free or cheap” ways to back up important files.

“It’s all beneficial,” Switajski said. “There’s no harm to backing up your computer.”

Students can store up to 30 gigabytes of data for free using Google Drive, which is accessible through the internet. Faculty members have the option to backup up their data to the “X drive,” which can only be accessed on campus. The X drive itself is backed up, so if harm came to it, files would still be safe.

ITS also suggests buying an external hard drive, which can store large amounts of data safely. Files on an external hard drive are very easy to transfer to new computers, should one’s current hard drive fail.

ITS cannot provide the external drive, but they’re available just about anywhere. Papenfuss said one can even find them at Amazon, Wal-Mart or Target for around $50-$100, depending on storage space.

However, most people can get by using free online storage space.

“I just use Google Drive because I don’t have large files. It really comes down to personal preference,” Switajski said.

Switajski said ITS is happy to help students back up information to external hard drives. In fact, the ITS web page has a link that explains the process of backing up to a hard drive, which can be found here. He also said not many students come in to get help with backing up their computer. Recently, a few students have come in because of emails about Crypto Locker, but few have taken the initiative to back up files.

Papenfuss said most of the time if someone comes in to back up their computer, it is faculty or staff.

Generally, computers take an hour or more to back up the first time depending on how much data is transferred. After that first transfer, backing up new data usually takes much less time.

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