January 15, 2010

Backup Follow-up…

Information Level: Basic

Have you backed up your valuable digital data yet? One thing I am sure of: backup is easier than recovery. So, here are a few more tips on how you can properly back up your date.

  • The Minimum: You have a flash drive with a second copy of all the files you would weep and babble incoherently for if your computer suddenly exploded.
  • The Ideal: You have your essential files backed up on a flash drive, as well as a scheduled daily or weekly backup of all your personal data to an external hard drive/online backup service. Also, you have an image of your hard drive taken within the last year, which backs up your operating system and programs. If your hard drive dies in this situation, by restoring your image & backup data you can be working again within hours of having a new drive installed.

Aim for the ideal backup, don’t fall below the minimum. Even the lightest computer user of you would be irked if you lost all your favorites/bookmarks, so back them up.

The options:

Scheduled local backup – set up a regular automatic backup to your local external hard drive with either the built-in Windows Backup or a free backup utility. I recommend Cobian Backup, used with great success by a number of my clients.
Cost: $50-$150 for external hard drive. Time: 1/2 hour to set up backup, automatic after that.
Advantages: Set it up once, then don’t worry. No recurrent costs.
Disadvantages: Only backs up data – Operating system (Windows) and your programs (Word, Quicken, TurboTax, etc.) are not backed up, so keep your original disks handy and/or image your whole drive.

Scheduled online backup – if you have a decent internet connection, and don’t want to bother with an external hard drive, an internet backup service may be for you. Mozy and Carbonite are good options, and with Mozy, you can get 2 gigabytes of backup space free – plus an extra 512 megabyets with this link, or by using coupon code 2YBJY1 (click “Products,” then “Mozy home backup,” then “Learn more” under “2 GB of 100% free backup space” on the left). Use those 2.5 gigs to try out online backup, and if you are a light computer user, that might be all you need to backup your favorites and documents.
Cost: $0-$60 per year. Time: 1/2 hour to set up backup, automatic after that.
Advantages: Set it up once, then don’t worry. Your data is encrypted and accessible anywhere with an internet connection.
Disadvantages: Only backs up data – Operating system (Windows) and your programs (Word, Quicken, TurboTax, etc.) are not backed up, so keep your original disks handy and/or image your whole drive. Requires internet connection to backup.

Disk imaging
– Imaging is the ultimate form of backing up, copying *everything* on your hard drive to an external drive image file. If something goes wrong on your computer, restoring the image file returns the PC to the exact state it was in when you made the image. Acronis & Drive Image XML both do a great job. Acronis is commercial software, but with its step-by-step interface and scheduling options, it’s well worth the price. Drive Image XML is free for personal use, and can do almost everything Acronis can, plus the handy ability to image your operating system hard drive while you are using it (you don’t have to turn off your computer and boot to a CD to image your computer).
Cost: $50-$150 for external hard drive, $0-$50 for software. Time: 1/2-2 hours to image drive.
Advantages:  Everything is backed up when a drive is imaged – programs and data. No recurrent costs.
Disadvantages: Requires more space and time than data backup.

Whether you run a small business, or just use your computer for browsing the Web, be safe and backup your data. If you would like personal advice for your situation, as always, let me know.

January 1, 2010

New years resolution #1: Backup your data!

Information Level: Basic

Happy New Year to all of you. Now, start the year off right, and make sure you have a backup of all your important data.

1. All of your irreplaceable digital photos, your mp3 music collection, your college papers and/or office documents, and your business/financial information, is stored on what is basically a glorified cassette tape! The hard drive is susceptible to magnetic, electronic, and physical damage… not to mention the motor may simply burn out.
2. Archiving is NOT the same as backing up. If you simply archive your data by moving it from your computer hard drive to an external storage medium, it is still only stored in ONE PLACE, and that one place may break in any of the aforementioned ways, or just get lost.

The Three Levels of Data Backup, plus one bonus:

For the casual computer user:
If you use your computer relatively lightly, mainly browsing online, word-processing, and some family photos, you can simply back up all of your data to a thumb drive. Thumb drives are small (thumb-sized), cheap (often less than $50), and are less likely to break because they have no moving parts, but they are more easily lost and have limited capacity.

I have a few of these SanDisk Cruzer Micros kicking around, and they have served me well. Most of your data is probably in your “My Documents” folder. Get a thumb drive, copy everything in “My Documents” to it, now you have a backup.

For the more frequent computer user/music lover/video collector:
If you use your computer more than a little, you may have a lot more data than will fit on a thumb drive. All of you with an extensive iPod music collection: this means you. You can follow the same procedure as with thumb drives, but with an external hard drive

For hard drives, I recommend Seagate – they can fail like any hard drive, but they’re well made, and have one of the best warranties around.

For the business computer:
For the business computer, data loss is not an option. Business computers can hold the most valuable data, while working harder than the average computer in less than ideal conditions… for such mission-critical systems, you should backup your data daily, as above, and “image” the entire drive regularly as well, so if disaster strikes, all your data as well as the operating system and your software can be restored in a couple of hours. Either an internal or external hard drive will do the trick.
Hard Disk Light Effects
Hard Disk Light Effects‘ by Matt and Kim Rudge via Flickr

Contact theTechRelay.com if you would like further assistance/advice on a backup solution for your data. We’re here to help!

Bonus solution – Internet backup for your part of the internet:

What happens if Facebook crashes? Or Twitter? Or Gmail? Do you have a copy of all your images/status updates/emails? Probably not. That’s what Backupify has stepped into the breach to do. Backupify is an online service that will automatically backup all your online accounts, and let you browse & download the backups. Backupify is a new service. I’ve been using it for a couple of weeks, and it looks pretty good. The best part is that if you sign up before the end of this month, it’s free! If you have invested time and energy into your online life via Facebook, Flickr, Blogger, etc., check them out.

Please, start the new year right. BACKUP your data. Data recovery is very expensive, and never a sure thing.