Backup, Backup & Backup Again!

If you are like me then you have probably been using computers for many years and have accrued thousands of files on your computers hard disc, from things like photos and videos to documents and spreadsheets. Have you ever thought about backing these files up to keep them secure in case your computer fails? If not then this post is going to outline some of the options.

If you have never had a computer fail on your or a hard disc fail then you are a fortunate person, like me. They are rare events although they do seem to be having more and more. But there are many other reasons for you to make sure that you have a backup of all the files on your computer. For example if the worst should have and there is a fire in your house or a car crash, breaks your laptop, you need to have a backup copy of your work. I have at least 50gb of photos and videos on my computer that are irreplaceable should the worse happen. If they were lost those memories would never be able to be retrieved. For this reason along you need to backup.

Backup Options

So what are your options for backing up? Well as usual in my experience things get a whole lot easier here if you have a Mac rather than a PC running Windows. Macs come built in with backup software called Time Machine. Time Machine IconThis software works by backing up the entire contents of your computers hard disc (everything) to an external drive (either USB or over a network) every hour. It then keeps these backups and they grow over time. The software works without any input from the user (except a touch on initial setup to tell it which disc to use) and then it does all the work in the background. Seriously if you are not using Time Machine and you have a Mac, you need to start now and set it up to start backing up your computer.

With Windows there are backup software solutions out there. However in my experience they can often be expensive and moreover complicated solutions to a simple problem and then just never seem to be that good in my opinion. Therefore I have always resorted to the manual way on a Windows machine. The first step is to make sure that all of your files (photos, videos, documents, basically everything except your programs or applications) are stored in your User folder (what was My Documents and is now called Documents on Windows 7). I then entered a reminder into my calendar (either on your phone or Outlook etc) to remind me to backup every Sunday (or whatever day suits you). Then at that time I would simply take a copy of that folder to an external drive so that you have a weekly copy of all your files.

Remote Backup

I mentioned above about if the worst should happen. Most of us that do backup store our backup drives either in the same house as the machine you are backing up, or those with a laptop perhaps store the portable hard drive in the same laptop bag as the laptop drive. Therefore an accident should occur that involves the computer then it would mean that the backup drive suffers the same fate.

The solution to this of course is to have some sort of remote backup solution. The most basic form of this would be to take a backup and then take the drive and store it elsewhere. For example you could take it to work and store it there or to a friend or neighbours. You must however make sure that you continue to backup to this disc at regular intervals so that you have the latest up to date files.

The other alternative is a remote backup solution over the internet, where you files are stored ‘in the cloud’ on the net and therefore in a different locations. Many firms offer this solution. This is not something that I tried, although I have used Dropbox which is a very good service. It would be interesting to hear what everyone uses in terms of online backup.

My perfect solution would be a online service which you could use with Time Machine. Therefore when setting up Time Machine you could select your ‘cloud’ disc and backups are made to a remote location rather than on an external drive in the same location as the computer.

So if you take one thing from having read this then let it be to make you go and backup your files now!

One response

  1. I’d suggest that a lot of how you back up depends on how critical your needs are. If you can handle a loss then simple replication of key files is just fine.

    But if your data is your business then that ain’t gonna fly.

    Our view at the company is that we use a repository, with change control, for all critical documents, code and so on, with that backed up regularly. It also means that everyone relevant has a local copy so in the unlikely event of a backup failure, we still each have a local copy of our most important files.

    On a personal level, I use replication to a NAS in the garage. If the house caught fire the garage should survive, and vice versa – it would be a pretty nasty disaster that wiped both out and I suspect our concerns wouldn’t be so focussed on our photos and music 🙂

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