You know you should do it. And yet you haven’t. The goal is to have your original data, and a copy or better yet, two copies of your data stored in a location that is physically remote from your main location.
There are a lot of options, such as:
- Floppy disk – don’t even think of this one – too small and easily affected by magnetic fields
- CD and DVD – turns out burned CDs and DVDs may have a shelf life of five years or less
- Tape – expensive and not completely reliable. Tape drives are cranky, and tapes are expensive
- Flash drive – this is a great option, flash memory is pretty resilient. Limited to the size of your flash drive, but you can get capacities up to 32 GB!!
- Different partition on same hard drive – it saves your data from a Windows operating system crash, but not a total hard drive failure.
- Second hard drive in same computer – now we are getting somewhere. This creates a completely duplicate set of data and in the event of hard drive failure it is easy to restore from the working drive. Drive Mirroring, or Raid Level 0 is a simple way to actually have a completely duplicate bootable system drive. Problem is if the computer is destroyed in a fire, flood, or storm, your duplicate data is lost too.
- External Hard Drive – same problem as last option. I know people who use two external drives and swap them out and take the other one home. Problems is that it relies on human actions and memory. Hmmm….
- On-line back up systems – this is the best option, and fairly easy to accomplish. It can be expensive, but doesn’t have to be. Mozy (mozy.com) is a good service. I provide something similar for my clients on my own servers.
What sort of backup should you do? Here are the main types
- Normal backs up all files and marks each as backed up.
- Copy backs up files but does not mark them as backed up.
- Incremental backs up files only if they were created or modified since the last back-up operation completed and marks them as backed up.
- Differential backs up only those files created since the last backup completed, but unlike Incremental backups, a Differential backup doesn’t mark the files as backed up.
- Daily backs up only files created or modified that day (without changing files’ archive bits).
If you are backing up your personal stuff, maybe once a week is enough. Perform a Normal back up, and save the last 3 or 4, which will get you back a month. You do not need to mess with Incremental or Differential backups.
For a business, daily backups are best. I usually try to avoid the whole Normal, Incremental, Differential rotation. Storage is cheap enough that a full normal backup every night is not too hard to manage. Back all the machines up to your server or network drive once a day, and back the whole collection up on line weekly. If you are paying by the GB for storage, and on a budget, you may want to overwrite the previous week’s data.
What kind of backup software do you want to use? Windows backup is not terrible, and works most of the time. PC Magazine has a nifty and easy to use application called Instaback. And then there is Norton Ghost and a host of other programs. If you want to do the online backup using your own storage server, make sure the program supports backup via FTP or File Transfer Protocol.
And if you need a little help getting it set up, then go ahead and hire a computer tech to help you get it going. Many of the programs run automatically, so once you set it up, there is little left for you to do.