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Let's Back Up a Minute

04 Mar 2016
Jimmy Coleman

Most of us have been there at one point or another…..wishing we had a backup copy of something. Whether it’s contacts on a cell phone or a program file in a motion controller, data is important and valuable.

Lets back up a minute - disk

I have seen all too many times when some data gets lost and there is that moment of anguish. Laptops can break beyond repair and old PC’s can crash for the last time. Old devices can become obsolete and incompatible with newer technology. It is one of those things that many of us think, “It won’t happen to me.” Or we just don’t think about it at all.

It is simple and painless to keep a PC or laptop backed up to an external hard drive. Hard drives are available these days with enough memory to back up several PC’s and at a very reasonable price. I use an external hard drive with USB connection and a simple software package for managing the synchronization. There are many software packages for this, each with their differences. Wmatch 4.0 from PCMag was recommended to me and I like it. It is fairly simple and has the features I need. But before I switched to using that, I just used Windows Explorer. It is a little more time consuming, but it is very simple and straightforward. With Windows Explorer, there is no question whether or not the files were updated, because you do it manually. Simple is good. Lack of ambiguity and uncertainty is absolutely necessary when backing up valuable data. When using a software package that handles synchronization, it is necessary to fully understand how the synchronization works. Data can be synced to or from the backup memory location, and it can also be synced based on which memory location has the newest version of a file. Some software packages have options for selecting the type of synchronization you want to use. Make certain the data is being stored where you intend. And to be sure, it is easy enough to double check the data by accessing it through a different route or from a different PC.

You might think it isn’t all that important to go to all the trouble to back up data and verify that it has been backed up correctly. But data can be extremely valuable. Some data is just irreplaceable. Once it is lost, it is gone forever. Other data can be obtained again, but with considerable effort and possibly embarrassment. Not only can the person who had the data be embarrassed about losing it, but a company can lose face by losing important data. Also, some data can be re-created, but usually with great effort, time, and expense.

I often talk to customers upgrading drives and motion controllers on their machine who do not have copies of the programs or the original application requirements. When a controller fails catastrophically, it is too late to pull the program out of it. The program must then be created from scratch, costing the customer a considerable amount of time and money. Many times customers must select replacement devices based on the capabilities of the old devices, rather than sizing it based on the actual application requirements. This often results in new motors, drives, and controllers that are over-sized and more highly featured than what is actually needed. Having access to the original sizing information could save customers significant expense. I always recommend finding the actual performance and functionality requirements before selecting replacement devices. Not only can it save expense, but it’s best to size products based on the application, rather than on previous device selections.

Lets back up a minute - workbench

I encourage customers to save backup parameter files for drives and programs for controllers even during the installation and development. Having backups from each stage of the integration process allows the customer to go back to a previous step at any time.

About the Author

Jimmy Coleman

Jimmy Coleman

Jimmy Coleman is a Senior Systems Application Engineer with over 20 years of motion control and automation expertise. He has vast experience in fieldbus communication protocols, and supporting mechanical, servo, stepper, and programmable products in various applications. Jimmy enjoys the challenge of finding solutions for interesting applications. He graduated from Virginia Tech in 1999 with a B.S. in Civil Engineering.

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