Sunday, December 4, 2011

Backups–Do You Have One?

“Better safe, then sorry!”

Three questions:

  1. Do you have a backup?
  2. And most importantly, does it WORK?
  3. Do you know how to get your data back from your backup
Most people realize they need some form of a backup and have even gone to the trouble of setting one up.  However, does it work?  I have seen some interesting backup solutions over years, a couple note worthy ones (if these described you, you have some work to do):
  • I have a USB flash drive I backup to occasionally.  Whens the last time you backed up?  Um, about a year and half ago.  Yea that should work really good!
  • For last 6 months my backup program keeps saying the media is full!  More than likely this means your backup source is full and any backups will be pretty much worthless.
  • External backup hard drive and backup program that backs up daily.  From what I can see I’ll bet it works really good without the external hard drive plugged into the power outlet!
  • No don’t need a backup, nothing I need to save if something happens.  Oh crap my hard drive crashed I need a couple of important documents!

These scenarios are just some of the backup solutions/problems I have run across.  Unfortunately all of these problems I have run across have occurred after the user lost some data or after the computer crashed.  By the way, just because your computer crashes does not mean your data is lost, in most cases it can be recovered!

Now for a third question, assuming you can answer yes to the first two!  If your lucky you have never had to restore from backup, but knowing how to restore is just as important as actually having a backup.  Having a backup is worthless if you do not know how to restore the data.  If possible you should test restoring from your backup once you set it up.

Some Backup Solutions (more or less from worst to best)

USB Flash Drive – Good for backing up files and pictures, just note that pictures can take up a lot of space in hurry!  While this is not a bad backup method, there is one significant problem (you).  This backup method requires interaction on your part and like my example above if you forget to backup, it basically becomes worthless.  One good thing about a flash drive is that is virtually indestructible.

Same Hard Drive – Yes, it possible to backup to the same hard drive and if you do not have the money to spend on additional components this is the method I recommend.  Just make sure you have a hard drive that is big enough for your system and your backup.  I would not recommend anything smaller then a 320 GB for this, and also make sure you create a second partition for the backup, preferably no smaller than 120GB.  There is one major problem with this backup method, and that is the fact that if your hard drive fails, most likely your backup will be history as well.

Second Hard Drive (or External Hard Drive) – This is definitely better than backing up to the same hard drive since the chances of both hard drives failing at the same time is small.  However, it is still possible if the computer catastrophically fails that your secondary backup drive could be ruined as well.  I recommend that you get a hard drive that is the same size as your main hard drive for best results.

Network Attached Storage – This is good solution if you have more than one computer you wish to backup.  This solution also allows you to have the hard drive completely separate from the computer, or even in a different building!  Just make sure you have enough space for all the computers you are backing up; also, if your network attached storage device allows, create a hard drive partition for each computer, this will prevent backups from other computers from interfering with each other.  Just to note, that restoring from a network attached device can be more involved as well as being slower depending our network connection speeds.  Also not all backup programs support backing up to network devices.

Online Backups – This is starting to become more popular and is possibly one of the best ways to backup.  These services however can be somewhat costly especially if you want to backup the entire hard drive including the operating system.  The biggest issue with online backups is the fact that they are only going to be as fast as your internet connection which even with a fast connection is going to be extremely slow.  This is why some online backup providers offer to snail mail your restored data.  While this is a great backup method I recommend supplementing it with your own backup for quicker data restoration.

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