It is not uncommon for the data on your computer to be worth more than the computer hardware itself these days. People are so dependent on computers that they have become a little too trustworthy in their functionality. Let’s not forget that for the most part these things are just cheap consumer electronics that are manufactured in China. They will break down on you. It is only a matter of time. If you are not backing up your data, you are eventually going to regret it. Trust me.
One of the most common ways to lose your data is going to be due to a hard drive failure of some type. Hard drives have moving components inside them that will eventually wear out. Every single hard drive will fail. It is only a matter of time. Just as every car has something break after so many miles; your hard drive will also have something break after it has enough miles on it.
This type of problem is exactly what you need to plan for because it will happen. I recommend that you actually use two different backup systems depending on your situation. I suggest you have one manual backup system that you do from time to time on your own. Then you should have another one that you rely on to backup your data on a regular basis automatically.
Manual Local Data Backup Method One:
Your manual data backup can be accomplished using any type of external storage device. That could mean using CD’s, DVD’s, a flash drive or an external hard drive. External hard drives are practical because they hold a lot of data. Plus they are very easy to retrieve data from. Flash drives are also convenient, but they are easy to misplace. CD’s and DVD’s are good methods, but they are time consuming and inconvenient. If your computer is part of a network, you might want to just manually backup your data to your server or just another shared folder on one other computer.
Here is a list for you:
1) External USB Hard Drive
2) Flash Drive
3) CD or DVD
4) Server or a shared folder on another computer if you have one available
The whole point in having a local backup is to have the data close at hand where it is really easy to get at when you need it. Because of this reason, I recommend that you don’t use backup software to perform this local backup. Instead you should manually copy the data from your existing folder to a new folder on the backup device of your choice. Most backup software including the built in Windows backup software will compress your data so that it takes up less space. This sounds good, but in reality it is not.
When you go to restore from a backup, you could run into trouble decompressing that data. This could render your backup useless or at least make it difficult to get at your data. Don’t compress the data for your local backup. Don’t use special software for this. Just manually copy the data from point A to point B.
Here is where backup software can come in handy:
By copying your data from one point to another, you will have a good backup of the data itself. Your files, music and pictures will be safe. However, the programs on your computer will not be safe. In order to save the programs on your computer as well as all of the settings on your computer, you should consider creating an image of your computer on a regular basis. An image is like a snapshot of your computer hard drive. When you create an image, you are backing up every last file, including temporary files, and every program that you have installed and every setting you have configured in Windows.
An image will allow you to restore your computer in its entirety to the very moment in time that you created that image. If your hard drive crashed badly, this hard drive image would be your savior. Most people don’t do this because they don’t know about it and/or don’t want the hassle. If your data is really important to you and your programs are really important to you, there is no better way to backup your hard drive than to create an image from time to time.
The two most popular programs for creating images are Norton Ghost and Acronis Backup. I am a huge fan of Acronis. Their software is part of my regular tool kit. I use it all the time.
Automatic Off-site Data backup Method Two:
Having a local backup is great because it is the easiest to restore from if and when you need it. With laptops though, you can be in places where it is not convenient to do backups. For these situations I recommend using an online backup service.
These online backup services are also great as a way of storing a copy of your data off-site. That way, if your building is vandalized, you have a fire, a theft or some other unforeseen disaster, you will still be able to recover your data.
Two popular backup services you may have heard commercials for are Carbonite and Mozy. Those are two of the more popular online backup services. They both do the same basic thing. They send your data over the internet to a remote server where it is stored for you. This way, if anything happens to your laptop, you can always log onto your account and get your files back.
For someone who travels of lives away part of the year, an online backup service is a good solution. It is also a good option as a primary backup strategy. The one downside to these services is that you are dependent on your internet connection speeds. In some cases this can be an issue. In most cases it is not. They work well with pretty much any high speed (broadband) connection.
Things to remember about data backup:
- If you are doing it manually, you have to make sure that you remember to do it. I have had numerous situations where someone had a good backup system that they failed to stick to. They lost volumes of data as a result. This can and will probably happen to you. The odds are in your favor that it will happen if you do not backup regularly.
- Kids are notoriously lazy about doing backups. They know better than anyone how important it is to backup their stuff, yet they don’t do it. They trust computers way too much.
- Do not just back up data on another internal hard drive in the same computer. There are way too many situations where that type of backup system will fail you. You should be backing up to some kind of external media or else an online backup service.
- Do not implicitly trust a backup system without testing it. Make sure the data can be retrieved from wherever you are backing it up to. Don’t just assume that the data was backed up properly. Look at the data after it has been backed up. Try to extract a file from the backup and see if you can open it.