What is the best backup solution?

Question

What is the best way to back up my hard drive? I use my computer mainly for home...and some of my work quotes.

- Steve

Answer

This question was answered on November 18, 2004. Much of the information contained herein may have changed since posting.

In our dozen or so years of providing data recovery and data forensic services, we have heard virtually every story concerning lost data

Every story, however, starts with the same two words, “I thought…”

“I thought I had a good backup.”

“I thought a new machine wouldn’t crash.”

“I thought a RAID drive system never failed.”

Users of all experience levels fall prey to the one thing that no amount of technology can overcome - human nature!

The status quo with our data recovery customers is that they had been meaning to get around to backing up, but…

As a computer user, it’s vital to remember that there are two types of hard drives: those that have crashed and those that are going to crash

The assumption that a computer is new and is less likely to “crash” is also a common mistake The hard drive is the most mechanical device in any computer and is the most likely point of a critical failure, regardless of age

You never get to choose when a drive will fail, so acting like “tonight is the night” is always the best approach.

There are a multitude of methods for backing up data on today’s computers A floppy disk is usually too small for most users unless the only data that you are backing up is documents and spreadsheets.

Virtually every system today has a CD burner with software that will walk you through copying your critical data to CD, which works fine for occasional archive backups.

There are a host of other devices that can be used to create copies of data that range from a USB ‘flash drive’ (www.usbflashdrive.org) to the various offerings from Iomega such as the Zip or Rev drives (www.iomega.com).

Other companies such as CMS Products (www.cmsproducts.com) offer a host of external hard drives that include scheduling software to make ‘image’ copies of your entire hard drive on a daily basis They design them in form factors for standard desktop system of small portable units that work great with notebook computers.

There are even companies, such as Xdrive (www.xdrive.com) that will backup your data for you across an Internet connection on a scheduled basis.

The biggest problem the average user has is that they don’t actually know where all of their critical data resides The obvious areas such as the ‘My Documents’ or ‘My Pictures’ folder are easy to locate, but many programs embed the data file within the program folders or deep within the Windows directory.

Your first step is to figure out if you really know where all your critical files reside If you are fairly technical, then you can use just about any backup media available.

If you don’t have a clue, a more expensive ‘whole drive’ backup solution, such as those from CMS Products is likely a better choice for you.

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Author

Posted by Ken of Data Doctors on November 18, 2004