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Always Have a Data Backup Plan

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Published on July 28, 2010 with No Comments

From viruses and hardware failure to theft or natural disasters, the ability to lose computer files and data is profound and affects many people each year. And anyone who has ever lost computer knows the headache and heartache that is involved.

Personal information, such as pictures, emails, and letters, is often lost irretrievably. Other information, such as music or applications, can be restored, but may be expensive to replace.

The best plan for every home computer owner is to develop a data security plan. This does not have to be a formal plan, and you would not even necessarily have to consult a professional, but you need to have some idea how you are protecting the files on your computer that you would be devastated to lose.

Every plan should begin with a system for duplicating all important files. Computers can so easily duplicate files that there is absolutely no reason every important picture, document and music file is not already duplicated. The trick is to make sure that the files are protected from different types of loss through duplication.

For example, by burning your pictures to a CD or copying them onto an external hard drive and still maintaining a copy of them on your computer’s hard drive, you can guarantee access to these pictures even if your computer was stolen or the hard drive in it failed. It is important to maintain the files on the original computer, as well, in case the CDs are misplaced or get scratched.

However, considering that both the backup system (the CDs or hard drive) and your computer are likely to be in the same room or, at best, building, you would still be very unprotected from many devastating problems, such as natural disasters or a fire that could potentially destroy your entire house.

A higher level of security can be acquired by having your data copied in another physical location. Large businesses have accomplished this for years by storing their data on tapes and taking these tapes to warehouses.

The home user could accomplish this in a similar way by storing the external hard drive at a friend’s home or in a mini-warehousing unit, if he or she owns one. However, most businesses are starting to turn away from this method because of the high cost of labor. It is difficult to recommend this method, knowing that the average homeowner is unlikely to take the time to maintain this system.

A better solution arises out of a use of the internet to back up files. Many companies offer a remote online backup service. Just searching for “online backup” will list many of the most popular companies.

To use this service, you would download their software onto your computer and select the files that you wish to back up. The software would then use your internet connection (preferably at least a DSL or cable connection) to upload a copy of the files to their computers.

Not only does this ensure that there is a copy of your important files in another location, so you are protected from everything from viruses and computer failure or theft to natural disasters, but the back-up files are usually maintained without any further work from you. A security system that offers great protection and little to no time investment is usually the best insurance for you.

The cost for online backup services has dropped dramatically in the past few years. With the right provider, the cost for online backup per year is lower than the cost of an average-sized external hard drive. What you pay extra in subsequent years — because the hard drive is just a one-time cost — you save in the amount of time spent transporting the hard drive if you are moving it offsite or the time spent making sure to maintain a copy of files on the hard drive.

A remote online backup service is an easy-to-use, affordable solution for most homeowners. It also offers a high level of protection.

Many home users may be weary of having their personal files floating around on some companies’ servers, especially if you have items such as your tax returns backed up. There is a real risk in online backup that information can be seen by the employees of the company. Some companies have systems to protect your information from being viewed even by them. Check a few companies until you find one with the level of security you require. If they offer better security, the company will make sure that you know about it on their website.

If this security risk is a turnoff, the safer security option is to utilize an external hard drive. It has already been mentioned that this does not protect you from all risk, but at least you are protected from some risk.

An external hard drive can still be a great supplement to an online backup system. Most services allow you to back up files off your hard drive, but they do not make a complete copy of your hard drive.  An exact copy of the hard drive can be used to restore your system exactly the way it was, with all your files in place and programs installed, if something happens to the hard drive in the computer. To accomplish this, an external hard drive and the right software can make a complete copy of your hard drive onto another hard drive.

Many different software programs to accomplish this task can be found by searching the internet for “clone hard drive”. Some of the software available is free for home users, with a few even being free for business users, as well.

Finally, like most types of insurance, it is always best to never actually use them. Having a good, updated virus scanner, consistently updating the applications you use, and keeping a close eye on your computer can help prevent viruses and theft. All of the solutions offered above can help make restoring your files less painful, but never having to restore them is still the best way to avoid a headache.

BIO: David Fritsch is a local website designer and managed services provider in Valparaiso.. He works predominantly with small businesses across the United States through his business, Fritsch Services.

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