Friday Four: A Four-Part Solution for Home Computer Backup

Posted by · March 30, 2012 9:51 am

Whether it’s pictures of your family, music or work documents, data with not backup can mean forfeiting precious memories, throwing away money and wasting hours of work.  Often, we equate losing data with hard drive failure, but the truth is that data can be lost for reasons like theft, fire damage or other events outside of our control.  Whatever the reason, it’s important to make sure your data is stored in multiple, safe locations on a regular basis.

Since Saturday is World Backup Day, we thought this might be a good time to remind you to back up your data and give our recommended four-step process to ensure your data is protected.  Heck, we’re even throwing in a little incentive–one free year of file storage on Just Documents–for you. Take a look at our ideas and then start backin’ it up!

1. Buy an external hard drive.

As home PCs have become multimedia machines, the need for more hard drive space has grown. Fortunately, the cost of storage has dropped dramatically in recent years. “But Jenn,” you say, “isn’t the future cloud storage?” Sure, cloud storage is a fantastic option (and we’re going to get to that), but call us old fashioned—we still like the idea of holding a complete backup of our system in our hot little hands.Backup Files with External Hard Drive

You’ll find a plethora of good external hard drive options on geek gadget shopping Mecca Newegg.com, or you can keep an eye on CNET’s Cheapskate for the latest hard drive bargain. Experts Exchange site director Andy Alsup personally recommends this 1TB portable hard drive, which retails for $109.99.

“Most people have less than 500Gb of data to back up,” Alsup says. “But even if you had more than 1TB, the cost for additional hard drives isn’t too much more than $100 per TB.”

In our opinion, that’s a small price to pay for saving precious data.

2. Get a reliable backup/restore software.

Now that you have the external hard drive, you need a way to consistently transfer information to the device, preferably at regularly scheduled intervals. There are a dizzying amount of choices when it comes to backup software.

“I’m a big proponent of ‘point in time’ backups, where you continually back up a system either daily or hourly,” says Experts Exchange Site Admin Glenn Beadle. “With point in time software you only save the changes, you don’t have to copy everything everyday and you can go back in time to see yesterday’s version.”

While you might consider a point-in-time solution like StorageCraft’s ShadowProtect for business, there are less expensive incremental backup options for home users: if you’re on a Windows machine, we recommend checking out SyncBack (if you’re on a Mac you’ve got Time Machine so why are you even reading this article?) For Windows Vista or Windows 7 users, the easiest option to get started may just be the built in Backup/Restore feature: while not incremental, it’s already on your system and can be set up without any additional installation.

3. Subscribe to an online backup service.

While a physical duplicate of your data is an excellent backup, chances are your external hard drive sits right next to your computer, so if computer is stolen or destroyed your backup may be gone as well. Adding an online service to your backup strategy provides additional piece of mind.Backup with Online Service

If you’re looking for a package deal, services like CrashPlan provide an excellent all-in-one solution for backing up to both a local drive and the cloud. Another option is to use cloud storage for backing up a subset of critical file folders, which is where a service like DropBox comes in handy.

“I use DropBox for all of my important stuff,” says EE user John Jennings. “Native apps on the most popular platforms plus web access from anywhere equal convenience and peace of mind.”

4. Grab a USB keychain flash drive.

If you’ve got DropBox on your iPhone you might not need portable storage, but we still like the added protection of a flash drive in our pocket. You never know when you’re going to need an important file and find yourself in a place with no Internet and no wireless coverage (yes, those places still exist). The  SanDisk Cruzer 16GB USB Flash Drive is a top seller, and if you’re going for a sleeker look, check out the iamakey.

Be ready for recovery

Once you’ve put a good backup plan in place, make sure you’ve got a disaster recovery roadmap to go with it. Check out our disaster recovery webinar for more information, and check out our upcoming CloudClass webinar on how to shape your own cloud.

So what did we miss? We want to hear from you. Share your backup strategies on yesterday’s backup post and you could win a free year of file storage from Just Documents!