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By John LaFreniere
HHD Information Technology Consultant
In the last five years I’ve needed to evacuate my house on three different occasions due to nearby fires. After ensuring the safety of our family, the first thing we did was to pack important papers and photographs containing irreplaceable memories. In this digital age, many of us keep irreplaceable pictures, movies, and documents on a computer. Without a backup! Me too. I unplugged and brought my computer with me.
I was lucky… I was given a few hours of warning to protect the most important things. Luckier still, after a few days, we were able to return to our undamaged house and re-hang our memories on the wall. And re-boot.
When a computer crashes, or the peril is something like earthquake or theft, there is no time to prepare. Advance preparation costs little, but when you have a need, you will be so glad you took the steps to protect your data. I now take the time to back up my computer and ensure that data is protected. Take it from me. I not only have to deal with my own data protection, but I have to be the one to break it to my co-workers that their data is lost. I’ve been through it enough to know what their facial expressions are going to be. Hint: It’s not good.
There are many different ways to back-up your home computer. Each method has advantages and disadvantages. In this article, I’ll help you understand common ways data is lost, and let you know about some easy and inexpensive ways to protect yourself from data loss.
Honestly, the biggest threat to your data is your inaction. All methods of data protection take some sort of advance preparation. Who has time for that? You have job demands. You have family demands. You have the latest episode of “Glee” waiting on the TiVo!
It only takes an hour or so to prepare a backup plan for your home computer. Many of the suggestions I’ll be making are free and the ones that cost anything are very inexpensive. So put “Glee” aside until next week and let’s get down to backing up. Think of it… then you get to watch two episodes in a row!
Understanding how data is lost
Most computers store your files magnetically on metal (*HARD*) platters (*DISK*) that use a motor (*DRIVE*) to spin around super-fast. Most HARD DISK DRIVES spin more than 100 revolutions per second. If your car tires turned that fast, your car would be going about 350 miles per hour. And we wonder why they crash! Honestly, I’m surprised they work at all.
Three hard disk drives out of a hundred will fail in the first year for no apparent reason. Even so, there are even more likely reasons you will lose your data. Here are the main reasons we get tech support calls regarding lost data:
Prevent data loss!
The best backup is one you never have to use. Let’s address the issues above to learn the best way to prevent data loss.
Back up methods
When deciding which backup method will work best for you we’ll look at what I like to call the 3 C’s; Cost, Capacity and Complications. There is also a reliability factor. If you ever need your backup, you want it to work.
|BackUp Method||Cost||Capacity||Complications||Reliability||Other Notes|
|USB Flash drive (AKA; thumb drive, pen drive)||$5 to $100||1GB to 64GB (small)||Easily portable, Easily lost||Very reliable unless laundered or lost||Best for moving files from place to place|
|External Hard Drive||$50 to $200||500GB to 2TB (large)||Does not protect against theft, fire or major disaster||Very reliable, but same potential failures as internal hard drive. Very fast restore.||A good choice if you actually use it to regularly back up files or buy software to automate backup process.|
|Tape||Too Much||Not enough||Too Many||Bad||Please don't consider tape for home use.|
|CD/DVD||$1 to $5||600MB to 8GB (very small)||Very low capacity, need many disks for backup||Subject to damage from heat, humidity, handling. Degrades over time||Back up to CD/DVD is slow and often requires multiple disks. Best for copying files to give to someone else.|
|Cloud Based||$60-100/yr.||often unlimited / very high limits||Recurring cost, requires internet||Very reliable if you go with a major company. File restore can be slow depending on network speed and size of backup||After one time set-up, backup is automatic. Included software constantly looks for changed files and backs them up. Set it and forget it!|
Summary of recommendations:
If you can only do one thing, do the cloud thing. I recommend a company like Carbonite or Mozy. I know they are secure and reliable because they advertise on AM radio. Plus I checked them out. And I have clients and friends who use them and are very happy with them. And I use one of them, but I’m not going to tell you which.
I recommend, IN ADDITION to backing up to the cloud, you also back up to an external hard drive. This will give you faster access to your files and in the event of a major disaster; network outages may prevent you from accessing your cloud backups for a time.
Disclaimer: These recommendations were written in January 2011 and are the opinion of the writer. The information is offered without cost and without warranty. Technology, changing as fast as it does, is likely to render this information obsolete before it hits the press. YMMV, etc.
c.2011 John LaFreniere