Backups! Backups! Backups!

drive-harddiskIt never ceases to amaze me the number of people who fail to backup the content of their computers.
Many of the people who come to see me with a non-functioning computer begrudgingly admit they do not have any backups.

“Do you realise that if your hard drive suffers a mechanical falure EVERYTHING you have saved on it is GONE!”

That statement usually makes a few go quite pale..

Yes I know there are specialst data recovery services who will, for considerable sums of money, try to retrieve lost data from your dead hard drive. The fact is, the cost of these services is just frightening, and is usually beyond most people’s reach.

If your computer is a reasonably modern one, it probably has way more storage space than you will ever use. Most come with at least 500GB of hard drive space and joe average is unlikely to fill that up with personal files in a hurry. Exceptions would be those who shoot/save digital video and keen photographers.

There really is no excuse for not having at least basic backup in this day and age. Storage has never been cheaper or more readily available. External USB hard drives can be had in huge capacities up to 5 Terabytes (thats 5000GB) for a good price, such is the competition between computer parts retailers. Even the humble USB pendrive is creeping up in size with 32GB and 64GB sizes available at less than $1 per GB.
Most people could store their entire My Documents folder and all thier music, videos, photos, documents, email and address-books on a USB pendrive without problem.

One of the most common excuses I hear is “I don’t know how to do it” to which I reply, “do you know how to copy/paste?
When they realise that making a backup is as easy as copy/pasting your files from one drive to another they are delighted. Sure you can use backup software to do it automatically for you at a cetain time of day or night, but that requires the computer and external drive to be left on during that period, and many forget to do that.
I find its easier to suggest they make a ‘backup time’ during ther day or week so that they can remember that “4.30pm on Fridays its backups” or whatever time suits them.

You don’t even need portable storage to do your backups these days. No doubt you have read or heard about “the cloud” as part of todays computing needs.
The cloud is simply a term that suggests online services.
There are several good free online storage services you could use. If you have a Gmail account, you also have 5GB of free storage, Google call it Google Drive. If you have a hotmail or live.com address you also have similar free storage with them, they call it “Skydrive“.

There are others such as Dropbox (2GB) who go one better by actually integrating their service as a folder on your computer. “Drop” some files into your dropbox folder on your pc, and it automatically stores them on dropbox’s servers for you.

Why use cloud storage rather than a USB external drive?
Because its ‘off-site’ storage.
What happens if your house or office burns down? That backup drive in your desk drawer is just a melted blob along with your PC.
If you’re not prepared to take your backup drive ‘off-site’ then cloud storage is a good second option.

Why is cloud storage only a second option?
Simply put, you do not have full control over it. Look at what happened to Megaupload’s file storage service. A mere accusation of copyright abuse or illegal activities is enough for authorities to shut down a service. No proof required. Just an accusation is all thats needed.

By all means use a cloud based file storage service, but not as your only backup. Keep a local backup at home as well.

The other problem with using cloud based services from this country is connection limitations. Our broadband is slow and very expensive. Uploading several gigabytes of data would take hours, possibly days, and cost too much.
So in theory it is a good idea, but in this country we don’t yet have the means to use it. I have over 4 terabytes of digital photos saved on drives in my workstation. At this stage there is no way I could use cloud based storage to back them up. The cost of that much online storage is quite high and the means to upload them to it would be like trying to fill a bathtub with a drinking straw.
I have local backups for all but the most important stuff.

Every night at a certain time a set of scripts start running on my workstation and creat backups of my most important data both locally and and in two cloud locations. The total size of the backups is less than 1gb and the scripts compare yesterdays backups with todays local files and only upload anything that has changed.

Most people won’t need to do that much backing up. But you should backup your files at least weekly.

Mark it on the calendar and do it! Before you lose all those family photos..

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