Our computers have become an indispensable part of our lives. We use them for entertainment, to talk with colleagues, friends and family, and for research, education, and business. Unlike other important assets like your car or home, you probably don’t have any insurance on your computer. Not financial insurance, but insurance that the data you have on the system will always be there when you need it. You may have a warranty, but warranties won’t protect you against accidental deletion of files, data loss due to hardware failure, or catastrophic loss due to disaster or theft. For that type of insurance you need to do backups.
There are primarily two different types of backups. The first type is the backups you perform in case of disaster, theft, or other catastrophic failure. For this you want the backups to be securely housed off-site. The second category of backups is for mistakes, file deletions, and minor corruptions. These backups are usually stored close to your machine for quick and easy access. While meeting these two objectives with one backup scheme is getting closer to a reality as Internet bandwidth becomes cheaper and faster, at the moment they are still separate. Additionally it never hurts to have two forms of backup – just in case.
Online backup providers, such as Mozy or SOS OnlineBackup, allow you to backup your files over the internet to a secure remote server. This process takes place in the background while you continue to use your machine normally. The great thing about having those backups stored remotely is that they are far away from whatever ills may affect your machine. These services are very inexpensive with prices ranging from free for a small amount of storage to $10 per month for about all the space you would ever need. Two great things about the the service provided by Mozy are that not only does it run on both PCs and Macs, but also it is free for up to two gigabytes of storage.
For local backup, external hard drive are a great way to go. With external hard drives from companies such as Seagate and Maxtor selling for as little as $125 for five hundred gigabytes (more than double the amount of storage of the average PC), they are a relatively cheap option. If you run an Apple Macintosh with the newest version of the operating system, Leopard, a great backup called TimeMachine is already built in. Windows users can utilize the included Microsoft Backup or opt to go with something like Backup4All that has advanced capabilities and is well worth the small price. Finally, many external drives that you buy are already configured to be used as backup devices and will come with perfectly adequate backup software.
Whichever method you go with, or better yet go with both, the most important thing is that you do something. With more and more of your finances, correspondence, and important documents being stored on your computer, can your really afford not to safeguard that information? The first step is making sure everything is backed up. The next step is making sure all of that important information is secure, and we will talk about that next time.