You’ve collected valuable contacts and other data in Office Management, spent time customizing your report forms and documents. It's also a good idea to preserve inspection reports until the statute of limitations expires.

Backup! Backup! Backup! But how? How and where should backups be stored? And how does one restore data into 3D if needed? It’s easier than you think.

 

Backup
Archive
Restore

Backing up your customized 3D data files couldn’t be easier!
In your 3D software Office Management area, click File > Backup all files. Backup creates a zip file containing all your custom data. By default it will be created in your Documents folder for easy retrieval afterward. That’s all there is to the initial backing up step. But you are not done quite yet, as you need to archive the backup onto other media.

Note that although one may also backup the entire 3D “data” folder specified under the Report Writer Preferences > Preferences, File Locations tab (usually Documents\3D Inspection System 11\ ) manually by making a copy of it from Windows Explorer, this folder does not include your Office Management information stored in SQL Server. 
  
You may also make smaller backups of certain files or items you’ve spent time customizing that may be more important to you than other files. For instance, after making significant changes to inspection forms or a special form group, you may wish to back up just those form changes or transfer those items to another computer.  See http://www.3dinspection.com/Tips-and-Tricks/how-to-easily-transfer-a-specific-form-group-to-a-new-computer.html
 
If you use a universal system of backing up your entire computer system instead, make sure your 3D “data” folder and SQL database if applicable are included in your regular backups.  Note that many third-party or cloud backup solutions may not include SQL Server data that might be used by 3D or other programs, so you will still want to periodically run backups inside 3D in addition to any other backup option you might use.  3D may only be able assist with restoring backups made from the program directly. (As one example, not all Carbonite options include your SQL database.  However you might periodically make a backup .zip file within 3D and store that file in a place where Carbonite can in turn back that up off the computer, such as in the root My Documents. However having an additional backup stored on a removable drive is still recommendation.)
 
Don’t forget to also keep a copy of your latest program installer download, in case you ever need to reinstall. Your data files cannot run without the program itself being installed. We suggest storing your program installer in the same place as data backups.  Simply save or copy the installation file itself to your backup media for safe keeping.  Should you need to ever reinstall, simply run the installer file you archived.  You may then restore data from a backup if needed.

Properly archiving your backup onto other media
Always store a copy of important backups in a location other than your computer hard drive, in case it ever has a problem, or your computer is ever stolen or another unfortunate event befalls it. Be sure to archive the 3DBackup zip file you create by copying it from My Documents onto removable media, perhaps an external drive, thumbdrive, or disc for safe keeping. Use Windows Explorer to do so or see your program or Windows help for details. If you are “computer-challenged”, you might ask a friend (or youngster) help you the first time.
When using removable media such as a thumb-drive or memory card, which may be more prone to accidental loss or damage, particularly if you use them for other purposes or toss them around more casually, you may want to alternate between several backup media, or even use cloud-storage solutions for storing your backups.  These items may also make it easy to keep a duplicate backup with you at all times or when traveling.

As long as you have properly archived your backups, they should be available if you ever need to Restore data.  Note: Most often, current customized data files will fit into a single 3DBackup .zip file.  However over time if you do not periodically archive older inspection reports you no longer need to keep on your computer, your backup could become so large it must split into multiple 3DBackup .zip files.  If so, you will see additionally numbered 3DBackup .zip files created in the destination folder.  Should that occur, be sure to archive the complete set of backup .zip files created by the backup.  We recommend periodically archiving and removing the larger inspection files so as to keep your main 3Dbackup file small and fast to create, as well as to restore later if needed. 

When planning your backup strategy, you would do well to consider:

How often should I back up? The answer really comes down to another question- How much data can you afford to lose should a problem occur? If you’re comfortable with backing up only once a month or once a week, consider that if a problem occurs, you could lose any data entered since your last good backup. Some choose to back up every month, every week, or even every day, depending on ones own comfort level, so this is something you must decide. Others back up form or other customizations only after making significant changes.

Should I store copies of my backup elsewhere? It is worth considering if fire, flood, theft, or another disaster could compromise your main backups. If your office is separate, perhaps store an additional copy in your house, vehicle, at a relative’s, in safe deposit box, or using online file storage.

How can I test a backup? A quick way to make sure the data copied properly after transferring it elsewhere might be to simply open the backup .zip file directly there to verify that it opens and you can view the listing of files within.  (Note that you usually cannot directly open the files inside a backup from windows, but should be able to see them listed.) Most important, make new backups on a regular basis, swapping the media or drive they are stored on if possible. That way should one backup fails for some reason, you’ll have others to rely on.

If I use CDs, does it matter how I label or store them?  Absolutely! Marker solvents or adhesive labels can etch into a data layer over time, uneven labels, direct sunlight or high temperatures could cause issues, and so on- see the “Quick Reference Guide for Care and Handling CD” produced by NIST.  Some types of CD/DVD media may be incompatible with certain drives or eventually fail depending on sealing method, reflective layer, organic dye, and storage practices.  Possibly most relevant is that many new computers no longer use optical disc drives, which may be an obstacle to quickly setting up a new system in an emergency.

What about memory drives? When storing on external drives, thumbdrives, memory cards, and the like, take care to store them away from contact with magnetic fields or other potentially harmful conditions.  You might consider also using one of many cloud-storage options as a secondary backup to on-site media.  Swap between a couple drives or locations so if one fails, you have the other to rely on.

Restoring files from backup if needed
If you do experience a problem, don’t panic. Locate your last 3DBackup .zip and archived program installer if it is also needed. These two items can usually be used to quickly set up the 3D software on an alternate computer if necessary. If the 3D software itself has been damaged on a computer, use the Windows Control Panel to uninstall the 3D Inspection System software and then simply use your archived installer file to reinstall again. Or install fresh on another computer.

Once the software is installed and working properly, if you need to restore custom data files into the program, use Office Management File > Restore from backup. Navigate to your backup file (whether stored on an external drive, CD, or elsewhere). Choose the desired types of files you wish to restore and click Restore. That’s it. The program will prompt you whether to overwrite any filenames already present and automatically items to the appropriate folders for the the current installation.


You may also manually restore some data files from the backup .zip (or another backup made using another method), or a single file or report for instance. Just open the .zip or other backup and extract or copy the desired files into your 3D "Data" folder location (use the Report Writer Preferences > Preferences, File Locations tab to learn your current program’s data location). If restoring files manually, make sure the 3D software is closed when transferring the files. You may find it handy to print or reference  the report writer help topic “Files Used by the Program” for a chart listing various data file types and names.

Note: If your backup was too large to fit in a single 3DBackup .zip file, then some files would be included in additional numbered 3DBackup .zip files created at the same time.  Should you need to restore files from a set of multiple backup .zip files you would need to restore from each 3DBackup .zip file separately.  To avoid this scenario, we recommend periodically archiving and removing old reports from your data folder.
 

     Conclusion
No excuses. If you don't have a recent backup, definitely make one RIGHT NOW, as you never know when you will have an unexpected computer problem in the future. It’s well worth the few minutes spent for the peace of mind it can bring, knowing you have taken basic steps to protect yourself.