This document briefly outlines ways of protecting your computer and your data. It covers all areas except viruses, which we cover more fully on our Viruses web pages.
1. A Short Guide to Trouble Free Computing
When you buy a personal computer you expect it to work and continue working for a long time. While this is true for many people, sadly there are all too many cases of machines failing.
Since computers have a nasty habit of failing two days after the warranty runs out and a day before your dissertation paper is due in anything that can be done to prolong the trouble free life of your PC is good news.
In the same way that your car or bike works better given regular servicing, computer systems are also a good candidate for some care and attention.
1.1. Top Tips for prolonging your computers life (and maybe your own!)
1.2. Laptop Care (Keeping it running for longer....)
1.3. Help! My Machine is broken.......
Sometimes, even following all the above is not enough, so what do you do?
These may sound silly and obvious but think how silly you'll feel if an engineer calls and discovers your roomate unplugged the computer to plug in their kettle. You may also have to pay if an engineer is called and there is no fault with the equipment.
If none of the above has helped why not try your supplier (for equipment under warranty), contact your IT Officier or if they are unable to help, visit the OUCS Help Centre for further advice. If it is a hardware problem and the machine is registered on the University PC Maintenance Scheme then instructions on calling an engineer will be with the registration documents or can be obtained from OUCS.
2. An Introduction to Data Security
The following is a very brief outline of some of the issues relating to data security and services offered by OUCS relating to these issues.
2.1. Looking After the Hardware
Normally a new machine will be under warranty for a year after the date of purchase. After this warranty expires any hardware repairs are likely to be costly, (parts can be expensive and generally a company offering a repair service will charge labour costs at approximately 50.00 an hour). Many of the companies selling computer systems offer extended warranty schemes which may be worth considering after careful investigation.
The University Computing Services offers a very economically priced maintenance service for the repair of hardware faults on IBM compatible PC and Apple Macintosh personal computers, as well as their peripherals. It is available to University Institutions, Colleges and to University members on a personal basis for their privately owned equipment. Essentially, for a modest fixed fee, the service provides for an engineer to visit on-site within 8 working hours of a fault being reported. The fault should be fixed within a further 8 working hours, or an equivalent item of equipment will be offered as a loan until the repair is completed. Equipment must be in full working order when it is registered with the service. A full description of the OUCS PC Maintenance Service is given on the Web page.
It is recommended that this is read for a full understanding of the service.
Students and staff can register their personal IT equipment on this service, and pay online via the web interface at https://maint.oucs.ox.ac.uk/private/. Departmental and College staff can register institutionally owned IT equipment on this service via the web interface at https://maint.oucs.ox.ac.uk/acct/. Payment is made by specifying a departmental or college purchase order.
If your computer or printer is already faulty, you should contact an appropriate dealer to arrange a repair.
2.2. Looking After the Data
3. Backing Up Your Data
This is the most important step to maintaining the security of important data. Whatever else may happen, if your data is kept on a media other than the hard disk of your machine you will be able to recover it. In the simplest terms this can mean copying files to floppy disks, CDs, DVDs, memory sticks, external hard disks or a networked drive.
There are other options you should consider.
OUCS provides a large scale back up service on the Hierarchical File Server (HFS). Systems are backed up to tape on a regular basis via the IBM TSM client software. If you wish to take advantage of this service the system to be backed up must have a network connection and be registered for use of this service. Details of the HFS service can be found on the HFS web site.
You can register for this service via the Web.
Files or complete directory hierarchies can also be recorded onto a CD-ROM. This is useful for archiving files consuming large amounts of valuable disk space on your system. The Help Centre has a number of machines with CD writing software, and blank CDs can be purchased from the OUCS vending machine.
Whatever mechanism you choose always keep more than one copy of the data, OUCS recommends a minimum of three copies of all important data.
4. Anti-virus Software
In academic environments where there is a great deal of exchanging data and a very mobile user population computer viruses are a very real danger. Data loss through virus infections is common at Oxford. OUCS supports Sophos antivirus software for which we have a site licence. The software can be downloaded by members of the University from the Computing Services registration system. It will run on many different operating systems including Windows and MacIntosh OS X.
Our Viruses web pages have details of the software and news of virus alerts.
5. Protecting Sensitive Data
Where data contains personal information or is considered sensitive it should be protected by passwords and encryption. If the data is particularly sensitive the system on which the data resides should be protected from malicious attack. Details of the Data Protection Act.
Information relating to security issues and pointers to sources of software and documentation can be found on the Oxford computer security web pages.
Oxford University has an IT security team called OxCERT (Oxford Computer Emeregency Response Team). All security related incidents should be reported to OxCERT
6. A Last Resort
OUCS will attempt to recover lost or damaged data on a best efforts only basis; it does not have the highly sophisticated facilities necessary to provide a comprehensive data recovery service. We cannot guarantee recovery of material and no attempts will be made to recover application programs. Where the information on a disk is regarded as vital, OUCS will always recommend that the data be recovered by a specialist data recovery company. Users should be aware that any efforts to recover data by a member of OUCS staff may mean that the disk is written to and subsequent attempts by a data recovery service may be hindered by such efforts. Data recovery is a very specialised field and such services are usually expensive; normally it will cost you in the region of £250.00 to receive a list of the files that the company can recover, you would then be charged again for the recovery.
For these reasons backing up of important data should be regarded as the most important step in protecting your data.
7. Data Backup and System Recovery
It is lamentable that many computer users have an unerring faith in computer storage media. There are regular instances of people entrusting their only copy of a thesis or dissertation to single floppy disk. The simple fact exists that all forms of magnetic media degrade over time and will ultimately fail. There is far less certainty as to when a disk will fail or what the consequences might be. In any event the advice remains the same: Save your copies of your work REGULARLY and NOT to the same storage device.
Backup frequency will depend upon how much data you have and how regularly it changes. As a guideline, if you couldn't bear to loose something, it's time to make a copy! Choosing an alternative backup location is eminently sensible or your backup will suffer the same demise as the original. Various schemes for backing up your data are listed below.
7.2. Automated Backups using the Hierarchical File Server (HFS)
The Hierarchical File Server provides large scale file store and backup services to the University community. The service is managed and operated by Oxford University Computing Services and runs the TSM software from IBM. Consider using this service if you have a direct connection to the university network and require weekly scheduled backups. Daily backup schedules can be arranged for critical network servers where appropriate.
7.3. Disk and Partition Cloning Software
Create a snapshot of your entire hard disk or the partitions it contains. The resulting image file can be saved on CD, ZIP disk, tape, a USB Flash Memory (Pen) drive or a network file server for rapid disaster recovery.
7.4. Archiving to Removable Media
Utilising cheap, high capacity storage devices for data backup and system recovery.
7.5. Creating an Emergency Repair Disk
Windows 95, 98 and NT allow you to make an emergency repair floppy disk containing a snapshot of important system files. This repair disk can be used to recover the operating system later should it fail to start or become corrupted through disk failure or mis-configuration.