When my server crashed, it looked like an easy problem. Seventy-two hours later, my eyes are bleary, my fingers are bleeding – but everything is up and running. In the end, almost all the data was saved – the only casualty is three days of e-mail that disappeared into the ether. If you sent me a message on Friday or over the weekend, I didn’t get it.

Some things to think about:

– Back up your data! It doesn’t matter where you put the files, as long as you have a redundant copy somewhere besides your hard drive. Use a backup program like Stomp BackupMyPC or just copy the files manually. Use CDRs, tapes, another computer, or an external USB 2.0 hard drive. But back up your data!

– Back up the files in My Documents, of course. Back up the data from your financial, timekeeping, and business management programs. If you’re running Outlook without a server, don’t forget your Outlook .PST file! Do a search for files named *.PST and back them up!

– If you work in a company running Microsoft Exchange Server, your network administrator presumably has a backup routine in place. Talk to him about creating a separate backup of your Outlook data. To do that in Outlook, click on File / Export / Personal Folders .PST file. Highlight the top of your mailbox, check the box to include sub-folders, and pick a folder to hold the exported file. And give it a unique name each time (include the date in the file name, for example) – odd things happen to .PST files that are overwritten with new data. (Clean out the folder with the backup .PST files occasionally – they’ll be large files.)

– Tape drives run by enterprise backup software are the only reasonable way to back up a domain controller – and I would rather chew razor blades than restore a system from tape. It’s slow, prone to error, and incredibly annoying. Don’t let your servers get old and tired while you reassure yourself that you’ve got your tapes to fall back on! It’s cheaper to upgrade the servers on a reasonable schedule than to wait for them to fail.