YABA – Yet Another Backup Article

Yes, you’ve heard this so many times already; it starts to sound like nagging. But, we must impress upon you the importance of this one thing. Losing data is really a bummer!

It’s bad enough that data may be lost in so many ways; hard drives crash, people steal things, lightning strikes, floods, pestilence, locusts. OK, that was a bit extreme, but you get my point. Things can happen that will cause your computer to fail, or to become unavailable to you, or more simply to deny you access to your precious files, photos, music, videos and all those programs you’ve installed and your favorites, bookmarks, links to things you may never use again, they are all lost when disaster strikes.

Unless you’ve been listening to the constant nagging mentioned above, and like a well-behaved child, you’ve taken the advice and backed up your hard drive, or at least your personal data files on the hard drive in one of the many ways soon to be described, yet again, in this article. Why, you might ask, am I saying this again? Because it’s 9:35 PM and I am babysitting an XCOPY DOS command, which is faithfully executing a transfer of data from a failing hard drive. And, as much as I am OK with having this work to do, you don’t want me to have to do it for you, too.

There are at least three ways you can protect your data; Cloud based storage (the latest thing), some external device (old faithful), and data synchronization (a kind of hybrid method that uses the cloud and other computers to mirror data directories).

There is no other purpose to backing up your data, except certainty that you can retrieve it when necessary. This is the bottom line, right in the middle of this article. That being said, here is one method; synchronization.

After a brief review of cloud-based backup services, including well-known names like Mozy and Carbonite, I settled on SugarSync. You may already know why, based on the name. Those other names in online backup are focused on ease of use, “set it and forget it” installation and configuration. For me, I chose synchronization, so I get backup and restore. In essence, that is what happens – my data is backed up to the cloud, then “restored” to a directory on another computer. Actually, there are three other computers. The likelihood of data loss is further reduced by the fact that each computer lives in a different environment. One is at home, one in my office, one is in an office in another city and one is a laptop. The chances of all four computers being lost, stolen, or dying simultaneously are pretty slim.

Even with all of that certainty, here is another backup method – disk image backup to a local external drive. Each of my computers has been backed up (at least once) by creating an image of the entire drive, and that file is stored on another disk. Given that hard drives today hold hundreds or thousands of gigabytes of data and there are only tens of gigs to preserve, there’s plenty of room for this method. For this, you can use a product called Shadow Protect desktop, made by StorageCraft. It’s not cheap, but it’s easy to understand and run and it can be used for continuous incremental updates. The only drawback here is that you really should store your backup drive in a location other than right next to your computer. One of my clients had his backup drive stolen along with his primary computer. He will not be restoring his lost data from that drive.  That’s the problem with local backup. This leads us to one more method.

You can get a 16 or 32 or even 64 GB USB drive with a backup program built into it. This handy little gadget provides the simplest method of protection. You plug it in, answer a few questions, and in a few minutes you’ll have all of your important documents in your hand. The downside is; it is a handy little gadget, which means it is easily lost. You must now protect it with all of the fervor commensurate with the value of the data on it. That means lock it in a safe, or at least keep it as safe as you would your car keys or your wallet. In other words, know where it is and don’t misplace it. Lose this little gadget and this backup strategy is pointless.

That’s it for now. I could beat this up a bit more by telling you how hard it is to put a dollar value on photos and documents you have created and stored on your computer. But, I won’t. I’ll simply repeat the basics here. Start backing up your data as soon as you realize it is valuable to you. Use one of the three methods mentioned here. Get a USB drive, use disk imaging software, or subscribe to some online backup service. Just do something before your computer is lost, or stolen, or simply dies from any number of natural or unnatural causes.

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