Genuine Curiosity

Author Dwayne Melancon is always on the lookout for new things to learn. An ecclectic collection of postings on personal productivity, travel, good books, gadgets, leadership & management, and many other things.


How much are you willing to lose?

One of my colleagues got some kind of malware infection on his site the other day – while distracted by a conference call he was participating in, he accidentally clicked on a bogus “window” that showed up on his screen (you may know the kind – it looks like a legitimate dialog, but is actually a web popup).

Due to the infection, he had to reformat and restore his system.  He made a good backup of his Documents folders (or “My Documents” since this was Windows XP), reimaged to the company’s default configuration, and restored his data.

Bleak Outlook

When he reinitialized Outlook, it re-sychronized with the mail server and put all his messages back.  Unfortunately, when he went to open up his archive folders within Outlook, they were nowhere to be found.  The realization hit him: he’d just lost two years of archived email!

How did this happen?  Well for some reason unbeknownst to me, Outlook doesn’t put your email archive in your Documents folder structure.  Instead, Outlook puts it in a directory you never see: …\AppData\Local\Microsoft\Outlook.  If you only backup your Documents folders you never get this folder.

What can you do about it?

There are a number of things you can do to mitigate the risk of this happening to you:

  1. SaveFolderToMyDocumentsChange your settings to get Outlook to put your Archives in your Documents folders.
    • From your Outlook Options dialog, you can reconfigure your default AutoArchive settings to tell it to store your Archives in a folder within your Documents folder structure.  I have a folder within my Documents folder called “Outlook Offline” that has all my archives in it. 
      • Click the thumbnail at right to see what my Outlook configuration looks like (keep in mind that this is for Outlook 2007, running on Vista – if you’re running Windows XP, or another version of Outlook, there should be similar setting.  On XP the folder you’ll look for will be …\My Documents\).
  2. Perform Image (full-disk) backups
    • AcronisBox I also make image backups.  I use an awesome product called Acronis True Image Home 2009 that makes it a snap to do a full-disk image copy of my hard drive. It makes it easy for me to create snapshots in time of all of the setting on my system.  That way, if my drive gets trashed, infected, stolen, etc. I can restore everything on my system as it was when I backed it up.
  3. Perform automated, file-based backups
    • Having lost data myself, I also have another layer in my backup strategy:  automated, file-based backups using Mozy.  I’ve raved about Mozy before, and will continue to do so.  I use this for all of my computers (and my wife’s, and my kids, and my dad’s…etc.)
    • MozyInsuranceYou see, one of the weaknesses of many backup strategies is that they often rely on the user to a) remember, and b) perform backups.  Mozy is an unobtrusive agent that backs up your data in the background and sends it in a secure, encrypted form to remote servers managed by storage giant EMC.
    • Mozy offers integrated restore capabilities so you can initate a file restore right from your desktop.  It’s a piece of cake.
    • The fact that Mozy stores your data off-site means you have backups of your important stuff, even if your computer is stolen, you suffer a catastropic loss at your home, etc. (Mozy also offers a Pro version for your business, and a free version that is limited to 2Gb).

If you lost all your data (or your email archives, or all your digital photos, or all your songs from iTunes, or…) just how freaked out would you be?

The techniques above will help you sleep better at night.  By the way – if you’re doing nothing, remember this:  hope is not a strategy.