We all know we should back up the information on our computers. We think about it, we wonder about it, then eventually plan to do it later.

The problem is, later may be too late. I am not trying to be overly dramatic, but backups are critical if your information is important.

There are 3 main things that people need to backup, Documents, Pictures and business information. There are a lot of other important things people need, but those are the most critical that are hard if not impossible to recreate.

Here is my reason for doing this Blog Entry

We had a computer come in the shop for serious virus infestation. We were scanning the hard drive, and it died in the middle of scanning. Every attempt was made to get the drive working, but it failed big time.

There was no way to recover the data because it was a hardware failure which is very common in hard drives. The person’s extensive business information was on there, and there was no backup at all.

If you do not have your information backed up and it is important to you, you have a pretty good chance of losing it all.

It’s a Hard Life!

Did you know that many hard drives only have a year or two warranty, does that tell you something?

Hard drives are little metal disks that typically spin around at 7,200 RPM. They do this continuously and they do have an expected service life. That is why the warranty is so short, and you pay more money for a hard drive that has a longer life.

I see hard drives in both laptops and towers die all the time. I probably have 2 or 3 a month that come into the shop. They can mechanically die and the electronics can also go out. One common factor I see in many bad hard drive cases is a very dirty computer inside.

Also laptops do get banged around and moved while they are on, and that little hard drive is spinning it’s little life away as you move it.

You absolutely cannot trust a single hard drive to store very important information, chances are it will fail at some point in time.

Here are the options along with advantages and disadvantages of each method

Floppy Disks (ok, that was a joke. You can not even fit a single 10 megapixel digital photo on a floppy disk)

1. External Hard Drive – This is quickly becoming the norm and most economical method of backing up data. The hard drives can store more and more data and they are getting cheaper. You hook it up with a USB connector and set up the schedule and that is about it.

There are a couple of negatives. First of all it is a hard drive, and it is sitting on the desk or wherever, and it can get dropped. So it can die on it’s own, and you or the kids can help it die by knocking it over, which can happen.

The other negative is that some of the software is really junk that comes with the hard drives. The good thing is that Windows 7 does have a really nice and easy backup built into Home Premium.

2. CDs & DVDs – This is probably one of the safest and best way to back up your information, especially archivally. CDs will hold around 700 megbytes of data and a DVD will hold about 4.2 Gigabytes.

The DVD will hold a lot more and is really the one to use to back up a lot of stuff. You can also get dual layer DVDs that hold even more, and Blue Ray can hold up to 25 GB of data.

The main disadvantage is it is a bit more manual, you do need to insert a disk each time, then put them somewhere. The advantage for seriously critical data is you can keep a copy of the information at another location in case of fire, flood or ????

Even if you choose another method of backup, creating a backup DVD once in a while is not a bad idea, just to be on the safe side.

3. Online Service – There are numerous online services out there to back your information such as Carbonite, Mozy, iDrive and many of the Anti-Virus companies are offering online backup services.

This is not a bad way to go. They back up your data when your computer is not being used and they have multiple data sites that store your information so if disaster hits they have your data.

The negative is that they have your data. They have privacy policies and they also encrypt your data so only you are supposed to be able to access it, but I still feel a bit weird about trusting a company with my personal or business information.

Also, when you back up at first, it can take up to a month to get all your data backed up, then after that it is much faster. Also if you have to recover the data it takes a long time. I am not a fan of online services, but for some they work ok.

4. Network Attached Storage – This option is a little more advanced and not quite as easy to setup, but in my opinion it is a very good option and much better than a single external hard drive. The other really cool thing is that you can backup other computers on your network.

This is a very good option for a small business with a couple of computers.

A NAS can also act as a media server, which will allow you to view computer media files (movies & Photos) on newer TVs & Blu Ray Players, but that is a bit more advanced and a whole other topic!

The NAS looks like a little toaster or mini computer. It has multiple hard drives, usually 2 or more. The drives are set up so information is put on both drives and if one fails, the other one has the info also. It is a redundancy that the external drive does not have.

You can just set the software to backup automatically and even have it back up a file right after you save and close it, so your backup is constantly monitoring your files. I have this for my business and I have to tell you, it is one of the best investments I have made.

The down side is that they start at around $300 and go up from there depending on how much storage and the quality of the unit. The other thing that is tough for many people is the software and installation is not always straight forward and can be hard to set up.

5. USB Memory Stick/Flash Drive – Many people want to use this to backup data, but I would not recommend it. These drives are made for temporary storage and you can erase them. I know people use them, but I would not recommend them for long term storage.

Final Thoughts
Every person and business have different needs and finances so there is not one answer to which method is best for each person.

Whatever method you choose, you need to make a decision, create a backup plan and stick to it. That way you won’t have to hear, “I hate to tell you this, but your hard drive is dead, and we cannot recover your information…”

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