Automatic backup of crucial application types and data files is the ideal. However, the identification of what is “crucial” to you is a manual process that cannot be avoided. You need to spend some time and effort in identifying the “crucial” file types and instructing the backup system to automatically backup the files identified by you every time the backup schedule kicks into action.

Before launching on to a discussion of automated backup systems, let us clear away some cobwebs.

Automated backup systems are computer programs designed by human beings with limited knowledge of your business or any other business. The person designing the program can, at best, apply some generic information in creating the logic of the program. Therefore, most automatic backup solutions are programmed to assume that all documents, images and some pre-specified generic file types might be important to you. Consequently, the automatic backup system will–in default mode–backup any documents, images and generic file types that are available on your system.

However, these programs are also designed to receive inputs from end users that can override the default and create a system that automatically backups all files, folders and applications types that you consider crucial to your organization. To this end, many online backup service providers offer user-friendly screens to end users for selection of files, folders and application types that they consider important for regular, scheduled or automatic backup.

Alternately, they offer snapshot backup for those who are unsure about what they want to backup and what they would prefer to leave out. Snapshot backups will create point in time snapshots of your entire system and backup it up to the online backup server.

How does all this work? Online backup service providers require you to download a client component when you sign up for their service. The client component contains a set of wizards that allow you to select “Backup sets” for scheduling your automated backups. A backup set is a set of files, folders and applications that you want to backup at scheduled intervals automatically. The wizard screens are similar to the Windows Explorer and some of them even have a drag and drop facility for identifying and selecting files and folders for automated backup.

Alternately, you can specify file extensions for backup and the wizard will select all the files with the specified extension for backup. It is also possible to identify specific folders to the program by specifying the folder path. Once a backup set has been created, you will need to specify whether you would like these files or folders backed up continuously or at specified times. Thereafter, you can sit back and relax and the automated backup will happen on schedule.

But, online automated backup failures are not uncommon! Since it is automated, you may forget to check whether the backup really happened! Automated backup systems acknowledge these possibilities. The automated backup system will alert you if an automated backup schedule has failed with a pop alert that draw your attention or will create a report on the cause of the failures for your consumption when you check back on the backup.

Most online backup service providers also have an inbuilt alert facility on their server side program to alert you via email if your automated backup has failed. If you choose to ignore the email or fail to check on your email, a few online backup service providers have a system of live help on phone to inform you about automated backup failures; the causes; what you need to do to rectify the problem at your end or how the problem is being rectified at their end and so on.

In other words, while automated backup of crucial files and folders is convenient, it is a freedom that comes with a different kind of responsibility. You need to choose the files and folders for automated backup with care and application of mind (failure to select a file type or folder could result in data loss); you need to react to backup failure alerts instantly; constantly monitor the backup system and study the different logs to ensure that the automated backup is happening regularly and on schedule without hiccups. You will have to work with your service provider to ensure that hardware and software problems do not interfere with the automated backup system.