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Backup & Secure

Steps must be taken to protect data from accidental data loss, corruption, and unauthorized access. This includes routinely making additional copies of data that can be used to restore the original data or for recovery of earlier instances of the data.

Best Practices: Backups 

  • Understand the existing backup policies within your office or Branch.
    • Check with your Science Center or Program IT staff about your backup policies and procedures, as they can vary around the Survey.
    • Backups may or may not be part of the data management plan for the group.
  • If there is no established policy, create a backup policy.
    • Clarify who is responsible for performing backups.
    • Specify where the backup data are to be located.
    • Establish how to access the files.
    • Define how often backups must be done. Again this may be dictated by policy.
    • Describe policies for moving the data or how the format may change.
  • Perform backups of digital data but also consider digitizing physical documents.
  • Automate your backups.
    • You can back up single files manually, but it is better to automate the system so that no files are missed and to ensure the backup is performed on a regular schedule.
  • Back up the metadata along with the data.
  • Locating the backup data:
    • Depending on your branch's policy, you may back up data in a designated repository, on an external disk, or a network drive.
    • Do not back up on CD and DVD disks as they can easily break or deteriorate.
    • Place backups in a location that is different from the original data source to avoid a double loss.
  • Checking backups:
    • After you back up your data, check the files to make sure the data have been copied and there are no errors in opening the files.
    • Make sure the file dates and file sizes are identical to the original copies.
    • Perform a checksum, which is a mathematical calculation that can be compared between the backup file and the original file, to verify that they are identical.
  • Determine how long to keep your backup.
    • This will depend upon requirements and needs.


Best Practices: Data Security 

  • Share metadata but keep confidential or sensitive information unavailable.
  • Create codes to make data anonymous. Keep the data dictionary secure.
  • When transferring sensitive data to another party, encrypt the data.
  • Make sure your computer has anti-virus and firewall software that updates regularly.
  • Make sure data are physically protected in a locked drawer or on a secure network.



  • Windows Users: Backup and Restore

    Description: "Backup and Restore - improved for Windows 7 - creates safety copies of your most important personal files, so you're always prepared for the worst. Let Windows choose what to back up, or pick individual folders, libraries, and drives yourself. Windows can back up files on whatever schedule you choose. Just set it and forget it. You can back up to another drive or a DVD. If you're using the Professional or Ultimate editions of Windows 7, you'll also have the option of backing up your files to a network."

  • Mac Users: Time Machine

    Description: "Time Machine is the backup application that's part of Mac OS X Leopard. To use Time Machine, simply connect an external hard drive to your computer. The first time you connect it to your Mac, Leopard displays a dialog asking if you'd like to use it as your backup location."

*Disclaimer: Any use of trade, product, or firm names is for descriptive purposes only and does not imply endorsement by the U.S. Government.


What the U.S. Geological Survey Manual Requires: 

The USGS Manual Chapter 440.4 policy for securing and protecting National Security Information when processed, stored, or transmitted in computer and networking systems (collectively referred to as an automated information system (AIS)).


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