Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Backing up data

Fact of life: hard drives crash. computers fail. files get deleted.

I've spoken with 2 people recently who have complained about recent computer crashes; one of them lost a large amount of digital photos. I've personally had 2 computers die over the course of the last 4 years. It happens. You're working on it at night, and in the morning it won't start. The question then becomes:

What would you do tomorrow if your computer wouldn't start?

If you have irreplaceable photos & video on your computer, you should already have that question answered. If you run your business from your computer, you'd better have that question answered. And for those of us who do both of the above... Let's just say I'm a backup fanatic.

Not sure what options are available, or which might work best? Here are some ideas you might want to consider.

CD-ROM. A small, cheap, easy solution. If you're backing up mostly data files, and you don't have too many, this is an easy solution. Each CD holds about 700 MB of data – enough to hold your household spreadsheets, word docs, quicken files, etc. You can put the CD in the drive and copy files to it in much the same way you would copy them to a different folder on your computer.

DVD. Basically the same concept as a CD, except it holds 4.7 GB of data. That might be enough for several thousand digital pictures, or a thousand songs. And unlike data files which might get updated, pictures and music don't change, so you don't have to re-copy the same pictures each time you back up.

External Hard Drive. You can find external hard drives ranging in size from big & clunky to the size of a calculator. They'll plug right into a USB port, and many of those sold today have more memory than the computer you're currently using. You could copy ALL your files over as often as you'd like.

Secondary Computer. If you have a home network &/or wireless connection, and each computer has extra hard drive space, you could back up each computer's data onto the other. This way you'll still have both computers' data regardless of which computer crashes.

Online Service. I don't recommend too many products, but I love Mozy! You can backup up to 2 GB for free, or have an unlimited amount of storage for $5 per month. It's very easy to set up, with an option to let Mozy find certain types of files on your computer. Or you can have full control, telling it what to backup, and how often, and how much computer power to use while running. It also allows you to restore a specific file from a specific date – a lifesaver when you accidentally hit Save when you meant to hit Save As...

How often should I backup? That depends on how hard it would be to recreate your lost data. I add new content, clients, modifications, etc. every day, and some of my files would be impossible to recreate, so I backup every day (sometimes Mozy runs multiple times in a day). If you work less frequently, you can backup less frequently.

Where should I keep my backups? The number one mistake people make is not backing up their computer, so when the computer fails their data is lost.  So just by backing up you're ahead of the crowd.  But if you keep your DVD / External Hard Drive / Secondary Computer in the same place as your computer, what happens in the case of a fire, or flood, or burglary? Most experts recommend to keep your backup data in a separate location – if your backed up data gets destroyed, you still have your computer. And if your computer gets destroyed, you'll be able to restore everything.

There are a lot of choices available – many more than I've described here. Please choose one. And you're welcome to email me if you need helping figuring out the best option for you. I hate hearing about people losing data..

Your getting off his soapbox now Realtor,

Chris Butterworth

[tags] backup data [/tags]