Are you backing up your data?

Posted on 1/7/2012 | Printable Version | Comments (0)

Most people know they should back up their data, but not everyone does. If you're one of those people, just take this as a reminder that your hard drive will fail at some point, and you need to get all your stuff backed up right away! Go to the store and pick up an external hard drive and get cracking! Well, I ought to give you a few better tips than that I suppose. :)

Why You Need To Back Up

Your hard drive is going to fail. It's not a question of if it will fail, but when it will fail. Hard drives today are pretty reliable, but still they are intricate, delicate machines. They also spin and anywhere between 5400 and 10,000 RPM depending on the model you have, and with all that spinning, something is going to break eventually. Redundancy is key. No storage media is infallible, and if you think of it that way, all your data should be stored in more than one spot. Always. Think about everything you have on your computer. Documents, email, pictures from your Aunt Virginia's 90th birthday party, and that cool video of the water skiing squirrel. You don't want to lose that stuff, do you?

Backing Up Is Easy. Here's How.

This won't cost you a lot of money, and it won't take a lot of time. Here's how to back up.

Step 1. Buy something to back up on.

You can back up on anything really, CD's, zip drives (remember those?), or even floppy disks if you had a lot of time and still had a floppy drive (remember THOSE?). But the two best choices you have are an external hard drive or a USB flash drive. If you only have a small amount of information, you can get by with the usb drive, but for most people who use their computer for a bit, I'd recommend the hard drive. It holds a lot more than the flash drive. Not sure which to get? Look at how much space you are using on your computer and use that as a guide. To do that, in windows, open My Computer, right click your C: drive and hit properties. You should see how many Gigabytes (GB) are in use. You'll want at least this much space (extra is good). On mac, open Finder, find your Macintosh HD and hit File, Get Info. Again, see how much is in use. Special note: If you use Mac OSX, you'll want to get a drive larger than the data in use on your computer. Time machine will allow you to roll back to a moment in time anywhere in your backup, so it saves versions of files. It's a great feature but it needs a little more space to get the most out of it. Go for a little bigger hard drive here. It's worth it.

Step 2. Set up Backups.

OK so you're got your shiny new hard drive ready to go. Let's copy some data! Windows:  If you got an external hard drive, it most likely came with a backup utility that you can install and use to automatically back up your information. Mac:  Apple's OS X provides a very handy backup program called Time Machine. To set this up, just plug in your new hard drive and open Time Machine. It's under Applications if you don't see it in the dock. Turn it on and tell it to use the new drive for backups. It will take a while the first time, but it will back up everything. Then you can go back to time machine anytime you lose something, and if your computer crashes or hard drive fails, the drive has all your stuff stored there. Manual Backups: If you got a USB drive or if you just prefer to do it this way, you can back up your information manually. Just pop the flash drive in and you should see a new drive appear in My Computer (PC) or Finder (Mac). You can copy files and folders over to that drive. Once on the drive, they're backed up. If you don't do much on your computer, just do this once in a while and you're all set! Just remember that anything stored in just one place is at risk for being lost.

Step 3. Go nuts.

If you're like me, you've had a hard drive crash once a long time ago and you lost some data and you swore you'd never make that mistake again! My first line of defense is Time Machine. I use a mac and time machine handles my regular backups on a day to day basis. But I also write software, namely Waypoint which is the flagship software package for my company, Twin Harbor Web Solutions. I write code for Waypoint regularly, and it's critical to the success of our business. Our customers use Waypoint every day and it's important for them that Waypoint always be there. That being said, losing the source code to Waypoint would be an absolute disaster, so we go a few steps beyond just Time Machine. We make regular backups of all our software and store them off-site, on DVD in a fireproof safe. This way even if our offices burn down, we still have that least the version since the last backup! That reminds me, it's time to make another DVD backup and get it over there. Hopefully this post helps save someone's data!


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