I think there are two main issues I want to address here, first when should you download data from your data collector, and second how should you download from your collector. The easy one is when you should download. To answer that question start by asking yourself how much data you feel comfortable losing. It is not a matter of if something will go wrong and you will lose your data, but what will be the most inopportune moment it will happen and how many weeks will it put you behind. I never hear of someone losing their data after they collected one point, it is always in the middle of a big job when the client is breathing down their neck and they have been working for weeks.
Daily or weekly backups are a good idea, monthly or quarterly only work if you are using the data collector once a month or once a quarter. The fact is you want it backed up almost as often as you use it. You can clean it off once a quarter or once every 6 months, removing old data that you should not need any longer. I also recommend downloading everything before making a large change like a software or operating system upgrade. While many of those upgrades are intended to work with no hiccup and no lost data you never know what can go wrong.
Now once you have determined your back up schedule how do you do it? Most data collectors have office software that corresponds with the software on the data collector for seamless data transfer. Sometimes these can be quite archaic and in some cases too cumbersome for larger data dumps.
“Use the technology Luke”. Using programs like ActiveSync you can “sync” your data collector to your computer and transfer data just as you would moving it from one folder to another on the computer. The hardest part here is getting the device to sync initially. Here are a few tips or suggestions that might make life easier. If you are using Windows Xp or older on your computer, use Active Sync which can be downloaded form MicroSoft’s web page. If you are using windows Vista or 7 go with Windows Mobile Device Center. You will often have to launch a program on the data collector such as “PC Link” to get the device to begin communicating with the computer. There are also questions on the cables and while you can use mini USB to USB, or 9 PIN to 9PIN, or 9 PIN to 9 PIN with a converter to USB, the key here is to make sure the port is working and the connection is recognized by windows.
The bottom line is that the transfer process should be relatively painless and easy and you should do it as often as you can. Don’t wait until everything has been lost to decide you should be backing your data up, start today!