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So you’re sitting there with that fancy new PC, loaded with memory, a large, fast hard drive, and a screaming processor. So what are you going to do to protect all that power? Do you have a disaster plan in place? If you’re a solo practitioner or a lawyer in a small firm, an essential peripheral is an external hard drive. Even if you already have a tape backup system in place, an external hard drive can be an excellent system for making additional backups of your data. Ranging in price from $180 for 40 gigabytes of space to $400 for 250, an external hard drive can house more data than are normally kept on a typical PC. These drives hook up to either your USB or Fire Wire ports and can provide fast access to your data. Backup software is often included with these hard drives, so you can set your backup to run overnight. When you come in in the morning, everything will be preserved. Since these drives are small, you can also get in the habit of rotating the drives, so that each day you take a drive home, ensuring that you have a backup off premises, in case of fire, theft, or other damage. Besides backing up your data nightly, it’s also a good idea to make an image, or clone, of your computer on a monthly basis. Using a program such as Symantec’s Ghost, an exact image of your computer can be created on the backup drive, including all hidden system files such as hardware drivers or particular settings you may have established for your PC. In case your hard drive fails, you can clone a new drive in a relatively short period from the image file. While backups may contain all of your data, they often don’t contain the settings and preferences you established as you worked on the PC. By cloning your PC from the image file, you will get an exact replica of your computer. You can then update the data files from your daily backups. Besides acting as a safeguard for your data, external hard drives can store large files, such as images or video, so these files don’t clutter up your hard drive or risk being accidentally deleted or corrupted. On the software side, another simple protection device is GoBack by Roxio, a program that takes a snapshot of your computer each time you start it up. If you’ve done something to destroy the integrity of your system, such as downloading a corrupted file or installing a program or driver update that causes havoc, GoBack can restore your computer to a point in time when everything was working properly. Be aware, however, that if you worked on any files after the point in which you go back in time, those changes will not be there when you restore. Make sure you save those changes somewhere else, such as the external hard drive we have already talked about. POWER SUPPLIES Another peripheral that plays an important part in the integrity of your system is an uninterrupted power supply, or UPS. Suppose you’re working on a document late at night, and you haven’t stored it in a while. All of a sudden, your building’s maintenance staff shuts the electricity off for a short time to fix a situation, thinking no one was in the building. Poof! There goes that file. While some programs will make backups of documents if the power suddenly goes out, you can’t be certain that the file will be intact, with all of your most recent changes. With a UPS, your computer keeps running for a short time, before all power is lost. This battery backup power will give you enough time to save your files and shut down your machine properly. Rather than a total power outage, a more likely scenario is the occasion of a power spike or voltage reduction. The sources of many computer problems are caused by faulty power � either too much or too little. If you have a $15 power outlet protector strip, you might as well have nothing. A strong shot of electricity will fry that strip along with your computer. But with a UPS that has surge protection and automatic voltage regulation, you’ll be assured of having a constant flow of clean power to your machine. In addition, even the slightest variance in electricity can cause your monitor to do annoying things, such as strobe. By stabilizing the power entering the monitor, the image will be stable as well. A typical UPS will run about $100, with six outlets, three with surge protection only and three with battery backup and surge protection. Plug the computer, the monitor, and the external hard drive into the outlets with the surge and backup protection. Plug the rest of the peripherals in to the outlets with just surge protection. If you need more outlets with backup power, for items like printers or scanners, you can purchase more-expensive UPS devices with additional outlets of backup power. By taking some simple steps with both hardware and software to protect your technology investment, you can avoid disasters that could cost you your practice. This article was distributed by the American Lawyer Media News Service. Brian R. Harris is the database administrator for the American Lawyer Media-Pennsylvania division and the former editor in chief of The Legal Intelligencer in Philadelphia, where this article first appeared.

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