Making Data Backups

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Making Data Backups

As with any software program, it is vital to safeguard your data. You can lose it due to hardware failure, or software problems. There may even be bugs in this software which have not yet been discovered which could damage your data (although we certainly make the best possible efforts to avoid that eventuality!). In addition, you might accidentally make some wrong entries or menu choices in the program which you want to undo in a simple manner.


The only sure safeguard against any of these problems is to make regular backups, which should normally be done using Backup/Restore ⇒ Backup Database. Note that if you do regular backups of your hard disk outside of the DONATION program, the database will also be successfully backed up, as long as the DONATION program is not running at the time the backup is made, and DONATION's data directory and all of its subdirectories are included in the backup. (However, those backups would be an actual copy of your database file, not the same type of backup as is made with Backup/Restore ⇒ Backup Database and restored with Backup/Restore ⇒ Restore Database.)


An alternative to using Backup/Restore ⇒ Backup Database is to use Backup/Restore ⇒ Email Backup to email a compressed and encrypted backup to an email address, which could be your own, or a colleague's.


A backup is not a document, meant to be "opened" for viewing. It is a compressed version of your entire database (all years of data). More information about that is below.


The first time you make regular backups in the program, with the Backup/Restore Backup Database menu option (or when you are first prompted to do a backup as you are exiting DONATION), you will be asked whether you would like to set up to do Internet backups as well, after each regular backup. This allows you to keep another copy of your last three backups, in a secure location on the Internet. If you do set up Internet backups, then every regular backup will be immediately followed by an Internet backup, unless you have set up the Cloud Storage Service, in which case those Internet backups are instead done automatically every time you exit the program.


It is important to understand that once you have multiple years of data in DONATION, all of those years of data are always backed up together, by either type of backup. There is no way to backup only one year of data.


A good general rule about how often to back up is based on how much you would hate re-doing your work. If you put in a set of entries on one day, and you hate the thought of having to re-enter them if something goes wrong, make a backup immediately and you are protected. If you make few enough entries that you could bear the thought of re-doing a whole month's work if something went wrong, you can do your backups once a month.


The backup procedure is simple. Select Backup/Restore ⇒ Backup Database. A "Save Backup File As" dialog box then appears, where you select the drive and/or directory to save it in. You can use this option to back up to a USB memory key, your hard drive, a writeable CD, or a shared directory on a local area network. You can create new subdirectories in this dialog box, by clicking into the box for files, right-clicking your mouse, and selecting New ⇒ Folder.


I strongly recommend you to not do your backups to a directory on your local hard drive (C:). If you do only that, and your hard drive dies (which happens surprisingly frequently!), you will have lost everything. And in fact, if you do that, the program warns you about this, and asks you to confirm that this is really what you want to do.


The default backup file name is DONATION-YYYY-MM-DD.HH.MM.SS.DB.GBK, where the YYYY-MM-DD.HH.MM.SS part is replaced by the current date and time, in that format. (Earlier versions used the backup file name DONATION4.DB.GBK, with no date component, or included the date but omitted the time.) You can also change that file name in the "Save Backup File As" dialog box, as long as it ends in the same ending, ".DB.GBK". If you have used the Database ⇒ Switch Databases option to use a different database for another organization with a different file extension (for example if your database is DONATION4.ABC), then the default backup file name will be DONATION-YYYY-MM-DD.HH.MM.SS.ABC.GBK, and if you change that name, you will still have to leave it ending in ".ABC.GBK". If you have multiple databases created with Database ⇒ Switch Databases, each must be backed up independently, and the program warns you of this fact any time you backup one of them.


After you have made the backup, the program will inform you whether it was successful, and if it wasn't, it will display any error messages


Note: The "Save Backup File As" dialog box will always initially display the previous drive and directory into which you saved a backup using Backup/Restore ⇒ Backup Database. The first time it is used in a new install of DONATION, it will default to the Backup subdirectory of your Data Directory. on your main hard drive. However, although it is not a bad idea to backup to that directory (or any other selected directory) on your hard drive, as mentioned above you really need to also backup elsewhere (for example to a USB memory key, or a writeable CD) in case your hard drive ever fails.


Note: Database backups made with versions of DONATION prior to version 3.00 (which was released in late 2007) cannot be restored with the standard Backup/Restore ⇒ Restore Database menu option to version 3.00 or later, because a different database format was used. Those backups are named DONATION3.DB (or DONATION3.something if you have multiple databases.) If you need to convert them, contact us for assistance.


What is Included in a Backup File


All of your regular data in the database, for all years, including donors, donations, categories, receipts, bank deposits, etc.

All template mail-merge letters and receipts, both the originals distributed with the program and ones you have edited

Memorized reports and memorized donations

Settings displayed in the Tools ⇒ View Saved Settings window, under the heading Current Database settings stored in the Database.


Opening / Using Backup Files


Backup databases created via Backup/Restore ⇒ Backup Database can be restored, which replaces your entire database with what is in the backup, by double-clicking on them in a Computer, My Computer or Windows Explorer window, as long as DONATION is not currently running. This will cause DONATION to open, and prompt you as to whether to restore the backup. (See Restoring Backups for details on how this works.) They can also be restored directly within the DONATION program by using the Backup/Restore Restore Database menu option. There is no way other than restoring a backup to DONATION to access the data in it.


Backing Up to Network Paths


With the Standard, legacy Lite or Local Network Server versions of DONATION, you can backup directly to a drive on another computer on your network by using mapped drives, as long as you have write permission on those drives.


You can also backup to what are known as UNC paths, such as \\servername etc.


See below for how backups work for the Local Network Client version.


Warning about Using Standard File Copies


Although you can also successfully back up and restore your database file (DONATION4.DB) just by using standard file copying methods (for example using Computer, My Computer, Windows Explorer, or the COPY command in a Command Prompt), or via specialized backup software, the manual for the Firebird database software used by DONATION advises that you should not do this while you are running DONATION! It says that could possibly lead to your database becoming damaged and unusable.


Backup Reminders


By default, the program reminds you weekly to backup your database, as you are exiting the program. If you wish to be reminded with a different frequency, you can use the Backup/Restore ⇒ Backup Frequency and Options window. This gives you the option of Never, Daily, Weekly, or Monthly. If you don't set it, it defaults to Weekly.


If you have not done a backup within the configured period of time (with either Backup/Restore ⇒ Backup Database or the Backup/Restore ⇒ Email Backup option), you will be prompted to do a backup the next time you exit the program.


Deleting Old Backups


Because each backup is by default given a distinct name, including the date it was made, the backups will tend to accumulate in whatever drive and directory you are saving them. To allow you to control this, that same Backup/Restore ⇒ Backup Frequency and Options window gives you an option to either retain all backups, or retain only the latest "N" backups in each backup directory, where you set the value "N" (between 3 and 20). If you do not set this, the default is to retain all backups.


If you do set that value, whenever you make a backup, the other backups in the same directory are examined, and only the most recent "N" of them are kept, with the older ones being deleted.


Note that even if you do set this, only backups whose name starts with "DONATION" will ever be deleted. This gives you a way to force certain backups to be retained indefinitely - just edit their name as you are making them to insert something before "DONATION". For instance, you might name a year-end database made at noon on December 15, 2015 "2015YearEndDONATION-2015-12-", instead of just the standard filename the program suggests, "DONATION-2015-12-".


Backing up for users of the Local Network Client Version


For users of the normal single-user versions of DONATION, or the Local Network Server version, backups work exactly as described above. However, for users of the Local Network Client version (where the database is on another computer running the Local Network Server Version), it is quite different.


When you do a backup from the Local Network Client Version, the backup is not done on your computer. Rather, your computer sends an instruction to the computer running the Local Network Server Version of DONATION, to do the backup. The backup is of a database file on that server computer, and must backup to another file on that server computer.


Because of this, the normal "Save Backup File As" dialog box cannot be used, because that dialog box refers to files on (or visible from) your computer, whereas the backup will be done to a file on the server computer. So instead, a simple window comes up, titled Network Backup, which prompts you to type in the full path and filename, relative to the server computer, to backup to. That is always already filled in, with something that is almost always correct, so generally you should not change it.  


You cannot specify a drive that is a network drive on a computer other than server computer, even if it is a mapped drive on that server computer. You also cannot specify UNC paths.


Because of these limitations, it is easier to always do your backups for the Local Network Version from the computer running the Local Network Server Version of DONATION, if that is an option for you.


If you have configured to make Internet Backups after each normal backup, the Local Network Client version will also do that. Like the backup itself, the Internet Backup is done by sending a command to the computer running the Local Network Server version to do that step, and then gets back the results of that command and lets you know whether it was successful.


The Backup Reminders apply to all users, including users of the Local Network Client Version of DONATION. However, if you are using the Local Network Version, there is only one database, so really, only one user needs to be regularly backing up the database. So, you may want to change the Backup Reminder Frequency for the other users to Never. (Each user has their own setting for that Backup Reminder Frequency.)


The setting mentioned above to retain only the latest "N" backups also does not apply (and thus cannot be set!) for the Local Network Client Version of DONATION, because it cannot "see" the other backups on the Local Network Server Version's computer, in order to decide which to delete. (And it couldn't delete them either.)


See Also: Restoring Backups


This topic was last edited on Feb 17, 2023