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PC911 > How-To > Safe Computing > Backing up your data
<<Page 1: Why back up?

How to back up

Backing up means to keep a copy of your important files in a separate location for retrieval in case of an emergency. Keeping a copy of it in another folder on the same hard drive though is not a good idea. It means to put it on a separate media. Preferably, you have two backups on two separate types of media in two places.

The oldest and worst way to back up is to save your data to floppy. As I said before, floppies fail rather quickly and are not a reliable storage media. Bad idea. use them only for temporary storage or data transportation if there is no other way.

Another older and very popular way was to use a tape drive. They could store several Gigabytes of data. The disadvantage of tape drives are that they are slow and that the tapes are somewhat sensitive to heat, magnetism etc. which does not make them the most reliable media either.

Then a few years ago, the Zip drive from iomega came out. It became very popular overnight for several reasons. It is easy to use, just like a floppy drive. Insert a disk, copy the data, eject the disk, done. It is also very mobile if you have an external Zip drive. Just take it with you, plug it in, install the software if needed and you're set. The Zip disks are relatively reliable (yes, there was the click of death but it supposedly affected less than 1% of all Zip drives according to iomega) and can store 100 Megabytes, that's about 70 floppies worth. Recently iomega released a new version that can store 250 MB. However, the disks are still somewhat pricey, and a lot of times several disks are required for a complete backup.





Recently, recordable and re-writable CD burners have flooded the consumer market and offered another way of data storage. A good burner can be had for $200 - $300, the disks cost $1 for recordable and $2 - $3 for re-writable ones. The disks hold approximately 650MB of data. The advantage is that the media is pretty cheap and very reliable, but the burners cost more than a tape or Zip drive. I've been using a CD burner for a while now for backups and found it to be very reliable and convenient.

Another way of backing up data is to another hard drive. If you have multiple PCs at home and they are networked, you can copy data files to the hard drive of another PC on the network for backup. That way, if one PC goes down, you still have the data on the other PC. The advantage is that it is pretty quick and easy to do, but it takes away some hard drive space and it does not allow off-site storage of the backups which is a problem if your house burns down and all PCs on your home network go up in flames. I always back up my data to my laptop as well by connecting my laptop to my home network or by using Direct Cable Connection.

Recently I have seen some ads for online backup storage, where you can rent disk space online and upload your data for backup. I am still a little skeptical about this concept, because you depend on your ISP and the disk space provider to be up and running for data retrieval, if you have lots of data and only a 56k modem, upload will take quite some time, and lastly, you put all your info on a strangers machine.

Be organized

To make backing up your data easier, it helps if your data is organized. If you save all your data in the program folder of the program the data is used in, e.g. Word documents in C:\Office\Word, Excel documents in C:\Office\Excel, you will have a lot of fun hunting down all your files and making sure you didn't forget anything when backing up. Believe me, it gets old real fast. Instead, you should make a point of saving all your documents, no matter what it is, in one central location. That's what the My Documents folder is for. You can make subfolders called Private and Business, and subcategorize those more. This way 95% of your backup will be done by simply copying the My Documents folder. Very easy and convenient. But don't forget, as I mentioned earlier, to also back up your bookmarks and e-mail data. If you use MS Internet Explorer, you need to back up the folder C:\Windows\Favorites which contains the bookmarks and the folder C:\Windows\Application Data\Microsoft\Address Book for your e-mail addresses and the folder C:\Windows\Application Data\Microsoft\Outlook Express for your e-mail if you use Outlook Express. If you use Netscape, you need to back up the folder C:\Program Files\Netscape\Users\(your user name here), it contains all your Netscape related data.

Additional considerations

The backups described above will of course only back up the data files or documents. This means if you lose a hard drive, you need to reinstall the operating system and the programs first, then retrieve the data. If you want to save yourself the hassle of reinstalling everything, you could get a program like Ghost from Symantec or Drive Image from Powerquest or one of many others. These programs will take a snapshot of your drive and save an image of the drive as is. When you have to start over with a blank hard drive, you just restore the disk image and you're back in business, no reinstalling of any programs necessary.

If you want the backup process to happen automatically, you can get a backup program that does the backup on a regular basis and lets you schedule full an incremental backups. This type of backup is recommended for businesses that have multiple machines.

Last, remember to back up regularly. You don't want to have something happen to your data, then restore your backup just to realize it is 6 months old. Depending how much work you do, back up either weekly or at least monthly. It is also a good idea to store your backups off-site, e.g. in your safe deposit box in your bank or anywhere else where they can't be harmed and won't be lost when your house burns down or is burglarized. It's your data, keep it safe

Page 1: Why back up?





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