What is a backup?
We’ve all heard that we need to back up our important data. Baby pictures, videos of our vacations, financial records — all the important things we keep on our computers. What is a backup, and why is it so important?
Backups are an additional copy of data that you can use to restore something if your original source, like your computer’s hard drive, is damaged or lost. A backup can take a lot of different forms. It could be a USB thumb drive that you can move back and forth between computers. Maybe a large external hard drive that’s portable. It could even be CDs or DVDs. The key is that a backup is not the only copy of your data.
Why do I need a backup?
Making a backup is smart for all of your data, but especially important for your Monsoon database. Everything you do in Monsoon is unique: order IDs, SKUs, sales reports, your inventory. All of these and more are stored in your database. If something goes wrong and your database suffers a failure, you could lose all of your hard work and time. Losing your database means order history, items received, and inventory quantities are lost, not to mention any pricing, listing, or shipping strategies you may have created.
Monsoon Marketplace makes a backup of your database every day to help keep your data safe. However, the backup is on the primary computer where the database is located. This means that if something catastrophic happens to that computer, there’s no way to recover your data. “Catastrophic” sounds like something that might never happen, but it really just means that something happens to the hardware that can’t be fixed. Even a simple power outage can cause unrecoverable damage to data on a hard drive.
How do I make a backup?
How can you keep your data safe? The answer will be different for different businesses and people, but here are a few ways that you can make a safe, off-site backup that can be used to recover your data in the event that something unexpected happens:
- Know where your Monsoon backup files are located. These are the files that you are backing up. They are typically going to be on the same drive where Monsoon was installed, in the main drive (root) directory. The folder is called “MonsoonBackups” and should contain files that have a “.bak” extension. Check the most recent date of the backup files occasionally. If they aren’t happening daily, there may be something wrong. Contact our Support team if you think there may be a problem.
- Know how big your backup files are. Depending on the size of your inventory, you could have some very large backup files. This might influence your backup method — smaller files upload quicker, but very large files might work better with a backup drive if your Internet connection isn’t fast enough to easily upload the files. It can also affect whether you can use a free cloud storage service or a paid one.
- To be safe, back up the entire MonsoonBackups folder. Our backups are set up so that a complete backup is done once a week, with smaller incremental backups done each day at about 4:00 am. You need both files to recover the database, so copying the whole folder will be the simplest way to insure you’ve got everything.
- Schedule a backup every day, including weekends. While you may not be using Monsoon when you’re not in the office, it’s still working to get order information and pricing, so having a daily backup is crucial. In Windows 7 and later versions, there is a built-in backup service that you can use to do the scheduling. You can find more information about it at Microsoft’s page for automatic backups. Setting up an automatic backup works for both an external drive or a cloud-based service.
- Use a backup solution that is either portable (like a thumb drive or external hard drive) or that is otherwise offsite (like a cloud-based storage service) to protect against loss from things like fire, flood, or power outages.
Now that you know where the files are, and what you need to do with them, here are some options for backup locations:
- Use a portable drive, like a thumb drive or external hard drive that can be moved offsite when you’re not in the office. This is one of the simplest ways to make a good backup. Copy the MonsoonBackups folder to your external drive, then take it offsite until the next day. The downside to this method is that the drive can be forgotten, lost, or stolen.
- Set up a cloud-based file storage service. There are a number of free and inexpensive data storage options that will allow you to store your backups safely offsite. A few examples are:
With cloud-based storage, there will generally be a folder created on your computer where you can place files to be backed up to the cloud automatically. You can schedule Microsoft’s built-in backup software to back up your MonsoonBackups files to that folder, then your backups will automatically be uploaded.
For example, if you’re using Google Drive, when you install it on the primary computer, there will be a folder called “Google Drive.” Anything you put in that folder will periodically be checked and uploaded if changes have been made.
This is a slightly more difficult to set up system, and some services charge a monthly fee, but it also gives you much more flexibility. As long as you don’t lose power or Internet connectivity for an extended period, your backups will always be available offsite in case of problems. You don’t need to be present at the computer for the backup to happen, either.
What else should I know?
Backups are important, but so is protecting your computer from issues before they happen. One valuable piece of equipment that you can use is called an uninterruptible power supply, or a UPS. This is also known as a battery backup. When the power goes out, this battery system can keep your computer running for a few minutes (or even hours, depending on the size of the UPS) so your computer can safely shut down, or until the power comes back on in the case of a temporary outage. Some even have software that will safely shut down your computer automatically if it looks like the power won’t be restored soon enough.
Why is this important? Because power outages can cause serious damage to a running database. Your database is essentially a machine that sorts blocks and puts them where they belong. When a running database is suddenly stopped, the sorting is ruined, and the blocks may be lost or misplaced. Recovering the data is possible, but it’s likely that you’ll lose some information at best.
The great thing about UPSes is that they’re very affordable and last for years. It’s a sound investment and will help keep your computer’s hardware in better shape, as well.
We hope that you never have any problems with your data, but we also know that sometimes bad things happen. With a backup strategy and a power outage protection plan in place, you’ll have a lot less worry.
If you have any questions about where to find your files, or if you aren’t sure that the Monsoon backups are happening like they should, our Support Team is here to help!