Computer Data Backup Guide
We all know we should backup our computer’s data, but most of us push it further down on the to-do list every day… until it is too late. Data recovery has been one of our most requested services since we opened our doors in February, and some of the potentially lost data has literally brought people to tears. We have seen Ph.D. students with important papers, people with all their family photos, and business owners with all of their work documents on computers that wouldn’t even turn on. We get to know most of our customers pretty well, so trying to recover data this important is almost as stressful to us as it is to the owner of the computer. We put together this guide to try and prevent stressful situations for all of us
Types of Backups:
There are multiple ways you can backup your computer. You can backup certain files, certain programs, or everything on your computer. Below is a brief overview of the types of backups out there.
Cloud Storage and File-Synchronization Services
Most of us have more than one computer in use and synchronization software makes sure you have the same files on all your computers. They always include a backup of files online, which you can access anywhere, even via smartphone. Arizona Tech Advisors recommends Microsoft OneDrive (Nathan’s favorite) and Google Drive (Drake’s favorite).
If you make a change to a file, the programs mentioned above make sure it’s automatically sent to all the other computers using the account, even on other operating systems. All of them provide a few gigabytes of online storage for free, typically 2GB, but you can get a lot more by paying a yearly fee
Online Backup Services
We’re in the era of the cloud. Online backup, once a bit specialized, is and should be the norm for backing up important files. Unlike the above services that also include a file-sync option, these products tend to lean toward direct backup to online storage, with easy restoration options. You install software on the PC, tell it what files/folders to keep backed up, and it does the rest in the background. And because the storage is online, you can typically read files via the browser, or restore the files to other systems, as needed. Big names you’ve heard of in this are: iDrive, Carbonite, EMC MozyHome, and CrashPlan
Full Disk Image
You can back up a full hard drive multiple ways. The first, copy all the files from the drive to another (larger) drive. This can be difficult for beginners, but it is worth learning. While you may backup more than you truly need to backup, we always say it is better to have it and not need it than to need it and not have it.
The easier way is to make an image of the drive, on Apple computers this is referred to as a “Time Machine Backup”. An image is an exact replica of your entire drive, including programs and system settings. When used for restoration, it overwrites what exists after that point in time; the hard drive would revert to the state it was in at the time of backup. However, you can also access individual files if you use Time Machine.
Imaging is often used to backup new computers. Why? We all know computers start acting differently a couple of years into owning it, and with a system image you can revert the drive back to its original settings. However, you are literally going back to the factory settings, which means none of the files on your computer will be there after the restoration. Data should be backed up separately. Yes, you should have two sets of backups running.
Your best option is to do a full-disk-image backup on a regular basis, with data included, using software that can read images and selectively pull files for restoration when necessary. You will need a very big backup destination drive to pull it off, typically an external hard drive
How you back up data may depend on the type of media you use as the destination site. Here are some options:
- External Hard Drives (WD is our favorite)
- CDs/DVDs/Blu-ray Discs
- USB Flash Drives
- The Cloud– companies like iDrive let you back up your devices to 1TB of cloud storage for $59.50 a year. If there was a fire in your house or business, all of the above backup methods would burn with it… except for the cloud. Thus, we recommend using a cloud-based backup (having a physical copy and cloud copy never hurts either.
- Network Attached Storage (NAS)- A NAS box is a hard drive that is attached to your network via Ethernet so all the users on the network can access it. These are for users who need a more advanced backup method and are sometimes referred to as a home server. They’re not cheap, can be difficult to setup, but they have some pretty awesome
NAS can do a lot more than backup a few files. Many can back up multiple computers in a home or office. Streaming media from a NAS to a device like a game console or smartphone is common place; sharing files across the network and out to the Internet, making it a Web server, is also the norm. Most NAS boxes feature FTP, online remote access, security controls, and different RAID configurations to determine how drives store your data (redundantly or spread across drives). Some even have multiple Ethernet, Wi-Fi, and USB ports. Some capture input from networked digital video cameras. The options seem almost endless, which makes it worth shopping around to get the right one for your home or office.
The Beginner’s Guide to PC Backup | PCMag.com. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://www.pcmag.com/article2/0,2817,2363057,00.asp The Beginner’s Guide to PC Backup | PCMag.com. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://www.pcmag.com/article2/0,2817,2363057,00.asp