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.
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.