Almost weekly I am confronted with an individual who is asking questions about their beloved computer data. There are a great many misconceptions of hard drives, and data backup by the average consumer, so let’s address some of these.
There is a surprisingly large number of people I talk to who don’t keep any backup whatsoever of the data on their computer. Some of them “mean well”, and talk about how they need to start doing a backup, but most aren’t aware that they need a computer backup in the first place. Now most of these people haven’t ever had a crash, which resulted in the catastrophic loss of all their family photos, etc. But surprisingly, a great number who still don’t backup their data after they have already lost all of their data at one time.
Here’s the deal… The Hard Drive, is where everything is stored on your computer. It is the most volatile part of your computer because it has more moving parts than anything else on your computer. The fact of the matter is that every hard disk drive will crash at some point in its life. It may do so after a week, or after a decade you just never know. So to stake all your personal data, family photos, and business data on one singular hard drive is quite a big gamble. You may never witness the death of your hard drive, and may never have to deal with the sudden loss of your entire digital life, but then again, it may happen sooner than you may think.
So what do I do to make sure I never loose all of my precious data?
First of all, you must come to this realization. You data is not backed up, unless it is in two places at once. Simply moving your data to another location does not lessen your chances of having a data loss catastrophe.
Second, you must choose a backup option. Today you have several options:
1) External Backup
2) Online Backup
3) Internal Backup
External Backup usually involves a USB device of some sort. It could be simply a key chain flash drive, or small 2.5″ usb hard drive, or a full size 3.5″ hard drive. The external device you choose depends on several things: How much data you need to back up, the portability you want to have with your backed up data.
Please note that external backup devices are not meant for storage, they are meant for backup.
Online backup is the process of backing your data up onto a source located away from your home and network. My #1 Recommendation is Mozy.com . One thing you need to consider when choosing an online backup solution is the company. Many online backup companies have come and gone through the years, so you want to pick one that will have a better chance of being here tomorrow. This means a company that has roots elsewhere in the Technology industry, and a service that isn’t free.
Mozy is a subsidiary of EMC, one of the largest Technology companies in the computer industry. Additionally, we’ve all heard the statement ”Nothing is free”. And when it comes to something as important as your data, nothing could be truer. Data storage isn’t cheap, and a great number of companies providing free online storage of anything, are now history. Expect to spend money for good online backup solution.
Internal backup is a more advanced line of defense to protect your data. Most of the time, a computer will come with a single hard drive where your operating system, and files are stored, however, a more advanced option is to go with two hard drives in your computer, and to configure them into a RAID configuration so that multiple drives can be used together for various reason. The main home application of raid is something called “RAID 1″. This is when two drives are taken, and setup in a mirror configuration, so that any changes made, are mirrored to both hard disk so that if a hard disk fails, you computer stays up and running with all data in tact. Again, RAID is a more advanced solution for the consumer market, and a professional should be consulted with setting this up.
How do I backup?
With the online backup solution, whatever company you choose to go with will provide software which automatically backups up your data deferentially, which means the first time you backup will take a while, but every subsequent backup will only back up files that have been modified or changed.
With the External Backup solution, you will be responsible for setting up the backup, and choosing software to do so. If you are running windows vista, life is easy. Simply navigate to start, control panel, backup & restore center, and follow the instructions.
If you are still running Windows XP, life is not as easy. There is a built in NT backup program, but for the average computer user is a little complex to use, and has issues with automation. However, I have stumbled upon another cheap solution recently:
Second Backup is a simply backup software that copies selected files to wherever you want to back them up. You can purchase the full version for $35 to enable to automatic features which allows you to setup automatic backup of you files, however often you want them backed up, and can even setup an email notification once the backup is complete. This software title also lets you configure the backups as “differential”, so that it doesn’t have to backup all the files every time, and even supports compression your backed up files to that they don’t take up so much space.
Whichever backup method you choose, will always be better than no backup at all. Take a quick browse through all those family pictures from years past, and imagine them disappearing. This will be just a glimpse of the feeling you will have the day you wake up, and all is lost.