The data stored in MLS is very valuable and as such should be diligently backed up in a variety of ways. Although Membership records exist at CHQ and can be recovered by a membership data refresh, organizational and financial records exist only in the local MLS database.
Manual backup to disk
On the MLS File menu is an option to Backup MLS. This can be done manually at any time. Also, as you attempt to exit MLS, if you have modified any financial data, you will be prompted to do a backup. This backup can be saved on any drive, and there are good reasons to save in a variety of places.
Backup to hard disk
Backing up to a hard disk is the fastest option. If you have a second physical hard drive, you should back up to a hard drive other than the one containing the MLS database. Since this is fast and easy, it is prudent to do such a backup often, thus limiting the amount of data that can be lost if you need to restore a backup for any reason. However, backup to the hard drive does not protect you against a hard disk crash, or other kinds of machine failure.
Backup to floppy disk
This has the advantage of being separate from the hard disk. However, floppy disks have several disadvantages:
- They are slow
- Their limited capacity may only hold one database (some large stake databases may require more than one floppy)
- They are not very reliable -- they may easily develop bad sectors
Backup to flash drive
A flash drive has all the advantages of a floppy drive, but none of the disadvantages. Flash drives with capacities of 128MB and greater are now very inexpensive and can hold dozens or even hundreds of backups.
MLS backup folder default
Early releases of MLS assumed that the computer had a floppy disk drive; the backup process (either a manual backup or a backup prompted by MLS when financial data had changed) defaulted to backing up on a removable disk, which was generally a floppy drive. However, newer administrative computers do not have floppy disk drives, and the MLS procedure for determining the backup drive and folder has changed.
MLS currently remembers the drive and folder of the last successful backup. If the remembered folder is not available (or on the first backup after MLS is installed), MLS will default to C:\mlsData-backup.
When a flash drive is used for backup (which is now the most common case), it is important that any flash drive used for backup be inserted before the MLS backup procedure is begun. If this is not done, the drive letter will not exist, so MLS will fail to find the last drive/folder and default to the C: drive, which in general is not a dependable place to store backups. If the clerk is not paying attention, he will save the backup to the C: drive, which will then be remembered as the default for subsequent backups.
Assigning a drive letter to a flash drive
By default, flash drives will be assigned the next available drive letter when they are inserted. This means that the assigned letter may well depend on the order in which it is inserted. If a flash drive used for MLS backup is assigned a different drive letter than the previous time, MLS will not be able to find the remembered folder, and will default to C:\mlsData-backup, which will increase the risk of the backup being inadvertently saved to the hard drive instead of the flash drive.
However, it is possible to assign a drive letter to a flash drive such that the drive assignment persists, even after the user logs out or the computer is restarted. To do this, use the Disk Management service to assign drive letters.
- Right click on My Computer, and choose Manage.
- Select the Disk Management service under Storage.
- Make sure the flash drive is inserted (you may have to do Action > Refresh to cause it to appear, if you insert it after Disk Management is running).
- In the lower right corner you will see a graphical representation of the disk drives.
- Right click on the flash drive and choose Change Drive Letter and Paths.
- Click the Change button.
- In the dropdown, choose a drive letter. It is good to choose letters late enough in the alphabet that they won't possibly conflict with other flash drives. Normally F: and G: are used for flash drives on administrative computers, so you might want to choose letters starting at J: just to be safe.
- Click OK, then Yes to the confirmation prompt.
As long as you choose unique drive letters for each of your flash drives that don't conflict with the automatic letters (typically F: and G:), the assigned drive letters will be reliably consistent for each of these drives.
Church policy requires that some backup files be stored off site. It is prudent to establish a regular schedule of taking floppy disk or flash drive backups off site. This protects against the risks of fire, vandalism, theft, and natural disaster.
Each month, during the normal Send/Receive cycle, MLS will automatically send a copy of the database to CHQ. This database is stored at CHQ in order to limit the amount of data that could be lost through catastrophic events (hard disk crash, fire, natural disaster, etc.). CHQ does not do anything with these backups except store them. If you need to restore one of these backups, contact MLS Support.
Restoring a backup
An MLS backup file will have a filename with the format <unit number>-<date>.bak, e.g., 123456-2009-04-01.bak. Such a file may be restored as follows:
- In MLS go to File > Restore
- Navigate to the folder containing the backup file (typically on removable media or in C:\mlsData-backup)
- Select the file to be restored
Note the following:
- You need to have administrative access to MLS to restore from a backup.
- Restoring a backup will cause all MLS activity since the date of the backup to be lost.
- If you have to restore a backup that will require you to re-enter data, before you do the restore, make sure you have printed out any information that will help you re-enter the data that will be lost during the restore.
- A backup from a newer version of MLS cannot generally be restored on an older version of MLS, so make sure you have installed the latest version of MLS on the PC that is doing the restore.
- A backup from a date in the future cannot be restored, so make sure that the system clocks for both the PC that is doing the backup and the PC that is doing the restore are set correctly.
- Handbook 1: Stake Presidents and Bishops , 13.3.3, 13.8-13.9.