Good backups will save you time and money.
When (not if) your computer meets with a disaster, be prepared!
Backups. No one likes to think about the possibility of a computer crashing, but it happens every day. Computer crashes can happen without warning and can be catastrophic.
Performing regular backups doesn't fall on anyone's list of fun things to do. But, you will save yourself the time needed to recreate data, the monetary cost of lost productivity, and the heartache of losing data that is not reproducible.
Many people think they don't have important data on their systems, but almost everyone has something they would be upset to lose.
- E-mail from friends and family.
- E-mail addresses of your friends and family.
- Pictures from your digital camera.
- Your resume.
- Financial information (MS Money, Quicken, Quickbooks).
- Any documents you've created (letters, journal, homework).
- Important business e-mails.
- Business contacts.
- Financial, budget, and payroll information.
- Project plans and documentation.
There are many different solutions for backups. No one solution is right for every situation. Here's a list of some common solutions with their good points and bad points.
Pros—Backing up your data to an external drive is quick and easy. External drives are very affordable and very large. Software is easy to find to help you make and manage backups. Acronis works well with these drives.
Cons—External drives are cumbersome to move around and easily damaged if dropped. Drives should be moved off-site to protect from fire and natural disaster. They take up more space for off-site storage than CD/DVDs or tapes.
Pros—Sending files over the Internet for backup purposes is a relatively new service offered by many companies, including Starbeam. A program runs on your computer and sends your data to a secure server somewhere on the Internet. You can generally retrieve your data from any computer connected to the Internet. Multiple versions of each file are saved, so rather than retrieving yesterday's version of a document you could retrieve last week's version. Once the initial transfer of data completes, only the parts of files that have changed are sent across the Internet making continuous backups possible. If your computer is completely lost or destroyed, your data can be returned to a new computer. There is no need to worry about off-site media storage with this backup method.
Cons—You must have an Internet connection to perform the backup. The initial load of data can take a very long time on a slow connection. If you need to retrieve all your data after a catastrophic failure, you must wait for the data to download over the Internet or wait for CD/DVDs with your data to arrive through physical delivery methods. This slow retrieval can be solved by using a local online backup provider.
Pros—Affordable for home users. Tapes were the only realistic choice for very large backups until online backups came along.
Cons—Most tape backup software is confusing to set up and use. The backup routine can be automated, but tapes still need to be switched manually on a regular basis (unless you can afford an expensive auto-changer). Many tape drives need to be "cleaned" with a special cleaning tape regularly. The backup software needs to be monitored to verify that files were backed up with no errors. Test restores should be performed periodically to ensure the data is really on the tape as expected. Your data stored on tape is not portable to another system unless it has a similar tape drive and the same backup software. Tapes wear out and need to be replaced. Data is on-site unless manually taken out of the building.
Pros—CD-R/DVD-R blanks have become very cheap over the last few years. Your data is permanently written to the disk when the backup is done. Software exists to let you write one file at a time to the disc, much like a big floppy disk. Blank CDs come in 650MB and 703MB sizes. Blank DVDs come in 4.71GB and 8.5GB (dual layer). The large size makes this good storage for large multimedia files. The data written to a CD/DVD should be readable in the vast majority of drives, so taking data to other systems is very easy. We have used a program called Acronis to manage a full backup of your computer. This software allows complete recovery of Windows, programs, and data by booting from a bootable CD/DVD. Blu-ray burners and discs are now widely available for reasonable prices. A single layer Blu-ray disc holds 23.31GB, dual layer holds 50GB, triple layer discs hold 100GB, and quadruple layer discs hold 128GB.
Cons—While CD/DVD/Blu-ray discs do hold a large amount of data, it is quite possible that you have more data to store than will fit on a single disc. A backup which spans several discs can be cumbersome to work with. The discs should be moved off-site to protect from fire or natural disaster.
Zip Disk (obsolete)
Pros—Zip disks come in 100MB, 250MB, and 750MB sizes. These are perfect sizes for small backups of critical files and for exchanging files with other people (see Cons).
Cons—Not all Zip drives can write to all disks. For example, the 750MB drive can read any kind of disk but cannot write to 100MB disks. The 250MB drive can read and write to 250MB and 100MB disks, but can not read 750MB disks. In order to move data to another system you either need a portable external Zip drive or the system needs to have a compatible drive. You should not rely on this as your only means of backup. Zip disks are small and easily misplaced. And, like any magnetic media, the data on a Zip disk can be destroyed by getting too close to magnets and magnetic fields.
Floppy Disk (obsolete)
Pros—Don't use floppy disks for any serious backup purpose. This information is here mainly for historical purposes. Floppy disks provide a cheap way to transfer data from one place to another. Almost all older systems have a floppy drive.
Cons—Most new systems are sold without floppy drives. Floppy disks are not very reliable. You should not rely on a floppy disk as your only means of backup. Disks and drives go bad frequently. Data written on one Floppy drive might not be readable on a different drive.
Mozy offers a free service for individuals to backup 2GB of data. There is no excuse not to take advantage of their offer. If you have more than 2GB of data, their unlimited backup package is reasonably priced or contact Starbeam to talk to us about our backup services.
Starbeam offers a managed backup service for small businesses that includes local backup storage on our secure servers and a technician to regularly check the status of your backups to make sure your critical data is successfully backed up and new files are marked for backup.
If you have any questions about backups or would like to discuss having a professional set up a backup solution for you please contact Starbeam. We can help you safeguard your data before disaster strikes. We can also help you recover your data and put your computer back in working order if you've already been the victim of a disaster.