It is likely that much crucial data is stored electronically in your institution. This may include collection descriptions, financial information, scanned collections, or "born-digital" collections. The provision of backups to replace or reconstruct data is crucial to preventing a serious loss of data. Issues to consider include storage of backups (onsite and/or offsite), frequency of backups, the number of backups to be created for each type of data, and maintenance of backups (e.g., periodically checking backups for deterioration).
See a Data Protection Checklist (PDF, 228k).
Take a few moments to reflect on the scenario below. Click on Show Answer to see how the damage might have been prevented or lessened.
Scenario: The staff of the Oakdale City Archives has spent several weeks creating a detailed descriptive database of its historical photograph collection. The archives assistant backed up the database to CD every few days, placing the CD on top of the filing cabinet next to the computer. Unfortunately, the archives assistant was sick for a week, and while the archives secretary continued to input information into the database, she was not familiar with the backup procedures. This morning, the hard drive of the computer containing the database failed. When the archives assistant put the latest backup CD into another computer, an error message indicated that the CD was unreadable.
Question: What could have been done to prevent or mitigate this damage?
Backup should have been done every day, and there should have been a mechanism for continuing it despite the absence of the primary person in charge of the database. Also, because no method of backup is completely reliable, multiple backups of important data are preferred. More than one CD should have been made, and at least one copy should have been stored off site, perhaps at one or more staff members' homes. After you have made a CD backup, check it on another computer to make sure it works.