Backup Strategies for Your Data

IT (Information Technology) recommends that all computer users regularly back up their data in order to prevent information loss in the case of a disk failure. We recommend at the very least backing up files that are frequently changed, especially if they are important (e.g., term papers, resumes). This page outlines some strategies that can help you avoid losing any of the data stored on your personal computer.

A basic backup strategy involves copying important files to a location not on your hard drive. Having more than one copy of important data is insurance against the loss of that data in an event such as a hard drive or system failure. To make your backup strategy more complete, you should try a trial restore of your backup before data loss occurs.

There are many options available for backing up your data. The option you choose will depend on what your backup needs are and how much effort you are willing to put into data backup. Choose a backup scenario that most closely matches your needs:

I would like to back up my files on to a device that I can carry around with me:


Storage devices drives that plug into a USB port are a convenient technology for backups. They do not generally require any extra software and are very portable. A USB storage device can serve as an external repository for important data as a protection against an event such as the failure of your hard disk. USB storage devices come in a variety of sizes including large external drives. The USB flash drives generally do not have the storage capacity to perform full backups of a hard disk or file system or to keep archives of past backups. If you need to backup very large amounts of data or your entire hard drive you will need to use an external USB drive. These often come with software to do automatic backups from your system to the drive.

To back up files using a USB storage device:


  1. Plug the drive into a USB port. The drive should appear in your file system view (e.g. My Computer).
    1. Manual Backup
      Copy the files you want to back up to the drive's location in your file system by dragging and dropping or using a file copy command.
    2. Automated backup to a hard drive device.
      Setup the backup software that came with the drive and it will automatically backup your files while the drive is connected.


To retrieve or restore files from a USB storage device:

  1. Plug the drive into a USB port.
  2. Drag and drop (or copy) the files from the drive's location in your file system to a location on your computer.


  • small and portable
  • can be reused many times
  • large capacity


  • Data security is an issue. Drives should be password protected or encrypted if data is sensitive.
  • easily lost


  • available USB port
  • USB storage device

Common names

  • Flash drive
  • Jump drive
  • Thumb drive
  • Keychain drive
  • Pen drive
  • Portable hard drive












I would like to back up a large amount of data (but not my whole hard drive) on to a CD or DVD:







A CD or DVD-ROM is a convenient format for backing up data. Large amounts of data may be stored on a disc (on average, a CD can hold about 750 MB and a DVD can hold 4.5 GB). It is possible to back up all your data files to CD or DVD by spanning multiple discs, but this is a time-consuming process and could require many discs.

To back up files to a CD:

In many operating systems, you can copy files to a CDRW by using file system drag-and-drop. If you have a writable CD drive but your operating system does not support drag-and-drop CDRW writing, you must use CD burning software to copy your files to CD.

To restore or retrieve files from a CD:

Restoring or retrieving files from a CD does not require CD burning software or a writable CD drive. With the backup CD inserted into your CD drive, find the drive's icon and copy the files to your desired location by dragging and dropping or using a file copy utility.


  • can be stored offsite to protect against the case of physical damage to the area surrounding the computer
  • large amounts of data may be backed up on multiple disks


  • if rewritable CDs are not used, a new disc must be used for each backup
  • requires proper storage and handling to avoid data loss


  • writable CD or DVD drive and burning software












I would like to back up my data to a secure network location.







IT provides file storage space to faculty, staff, and students at GVSU. All student accounts have 1 Gigabyte and faculty/staff accounts have 100 Gigabytes of storage. The drive letter assigned to this storage space is N: The storage space is provided at no charge. All files saved in this location can be accessed via FTP or through

You should be aware of how much space your backed-up files take up so that your backup doesn't get cut off when it exceeds your quota. Files will not work for full system backups or for archiving previous backups.

There are three ways of connecting to files saved on your N: drive:

  1. If you are on campus and logged into the GVSU network you may save or copy files to the N: drive from within the application or from My Computer.
  2. If you are off campus you may use FTP to access your files. For FTP instructions.  Instructions for accessing via FTP are located here.
  3. Off campus access using This web address will bring you to a secure login page. Use your network ID and password to access the connection. There will be a link to access the departmental L: drive and your N: drive on this page.
  • no extra hardware or software required
  • files are accessible from any location with an Internet connection
  • faculty/staff space is limited to 100 Gigabytes of storage
  • student space is limited to 1 Gigabyte of storage
  • requires on campus network login or an Internet connection to access data /li>
  • GVSU network user ID












Should a GVSU faculty/staff member ever need to backup their full hard drive?






If your computer hard drive should fail, Information Technology will reload the operating system and all standard GVSU software.
- Keep all the disks for software you have installed on your machine to reinstall. IT does not have copies of software available.

If you have questions call the IT Help Desk at 616-331-2101.

Page last modified June 24, 2013