Safeguarding Your Data

Introduction

The information stored in RTG Bills and RTG Timer is of great value to your practice, and losing that data would be a catastrophe. Our software uses a reliable, relational database (the Microsoft Jet database engine) to store your data. Yet we know that no computer, and no software, is perfect. Power failures occur, hard disks crash, and sometimes software has bugs.

Here we will present some tips on how you can safeguard the data in RTG Bills and RTG Timer. We hope you find it helpful.

The main idea is to back up your data regularly, which means to copy all of the data files to another location.

 

Do a daily backup

If you enter information into RTG Bills and RTG Timer every day, you should also back up the data every day.

Many installations use an external disk drive for daily backup. You can set the backup software to do the backup at night, when no one is using the computer.

Typically the software will back up the entire hard disk once a week. That's called a full backup. On the other days of the week, the software backs up only those files that have changed. These are called incremental backups.

Some backup programs back up only those files that have changed since the last incremental backup. Other backup programs back up all files that have changed since the last full backup. Either way, if you use RTG Bills every day, the database will be copied to the external disk every night.

If your budget allows, use more than one external disk drive for backup and rotate them. For example, if you have two backup drives, attach a different drive each week before the full backup. That way you will have the full backup and all the incremental backups for one week on the same drive.

Three drives are even better. Then you can have the current backup drive and the one to be used next on-site, and keep the third drive off-site.

Tape backups are notoriously unreliable!
In the past, we recommended tape drives for backup in spite of this, because hard disk drives were expensive. With the reduced cost of disk drives, we no longer recommend tape.

Zip drives, flash drives, CD drives, and DVD drives are more reliable than tape drives, but they don't have sufficient capacity to store all the files on a hard disk.

Online backup to a site on the Internet may or may not work for you. If the software simply copies changed files, the smallest change to the RTG Bills database will require backing up the entire file. That could be many megabytes of data to transfer after you have used RTG Bills for awhile. However, some software can detect the changes within the database and upload only the changed portions.

 

Use the RTG Bills Backup command

Even if you do a backup every day, we recommend that you use the File > Backup command in RTG Bills (and RTG Timer) from time to time.

You can set RTG Bills to do this backup to any storage device on your system. We recommend either a USB flash drive or an external hard disk. If you have a network, you can do the backup onto another hard disk on the network.

As a last resort, you can do the RTG Bills backup to a different folder on the same hard disk. On the Back Up Data window, click the RTG Bills Data Folder button to put the backup in the Backup folder that exists inside the Data Location. That won't be useful if the hard disk crashes, but it might be useful if the database gets corrupted and the hard disk is still working.

The RTG Bills backup has these limitations:

  • It backs up the data but not the programs.
  • Backups are not automatic.
  • It does not back up the archive file, which contains the data for deleted matters. (Available as an option in V2.02 and above.)
  • The backup is not checked to see if it can be read.

In spite of its limitations, we feel it is important to use the RTG Bills backup. We don't have a definite recommendation regarding how often to use it, but somewhere between once a day and once a week seems about right. The idea is to eliminate total reliance on your automated backup procedure.

 

Compact the database

You should use the File > Compact Database command periodically. The main purpose of this command is to reduce the size of the database by eliminating deleted items. If you haven't compacted the database in a long time, you may find that the database works a little faster as well.

However, there is another reason we think you should compact the database. The process essentially creates a new database and copies the data from the old database to the new one. If the data can't be read for some reason, the sooner you know about it the better. Also, the uncompacted database is left on the disk (in the file Rtgbills.bak) so you have, in effect, created a backup copy of your data.

We recommend that you compact the database regularly, somewhere between once a week and once a month.

 

Exit RTG Bills every day

Do not leave RTG Bills running day after day. Exit the program when you are finished using it for the day. This suggestion applies to RTG Timer as well.

Windows programs sometimes accumulate problems as they run, which can lead to trouble. If you start the program fresh each day, you may avoid a crash.

The most important reason for this suggestion, however, involves the daily backup of the database. When RTG Bills and RTG Timer are running, the database file is open, and your backup software may not back it up. Your backups may appear to succeed, but it could be that the RTG Bills database is not on them.

If you have a network, and you use RTG Timer, it gets client and matter information from the RTG Bills database. If anyone leaves RTG Timer running all night, the RTG Bills database will be open and the backup software may not back it up.

 

Safeguard RTG Timer data

If you use RTG Timer, it too has valuable data. It is possible that your RTG Timer data is on a local hard disk, even if the PC is on a network. In that case, the database file (Rtgtimer.mdb) might not be backed up, because most networks do not back up local hard disks.

In that situation, we suggest that you use the File > Backup command in RTG Timer and set it to copy the data to a network drive where it will be backed up daily. You need a separate folder on the network drive for each RTG Timer user.

For example, suppose RTG Bills data is located on network drive F in the folder F:\Rtgbills. Create a folder for each RTG Timer user:

F:\Rtgbills\User1
F:\Rtgbills\User2

and so on. Then have each user enter their folder name in RTG Timer as the Backup Folder. Once you enter the folder name, it will appear each time you do File > Backup. You don't need to re-enter it each time.

Finally - the hardest part - you have to train the users to do a backup every day.

The alternative is to install the RTG Timer data on the file server, in a different folder for each RTG Timer user. This is explained in the network installation instructions.

 

Conclusion

The RTG Bills and RTG Timer programs are very reliable. Of course, no one can guarantee that software is bug-free, so regular backups are essential.

Power loss and hardware failures can corrupt the data on a hard disk. It is rare, but it does happen. Your best defense is to have many backups, both on an external device and on your hard disk.

We hope that these suggestions are useful. We welcome any comments you might have.

 
 
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