You've got digital photos. You've got digital music. You got financial records and years of work stored digitally.
And you've got backups of all of that data, right?
If not, it's time to get serious. With a growing portion of the productivity of our working lives now stored digitally, it's not only inconvenient to lose data, it can be catastrophic.
With even paper copies increasingly rare, many today would be left with no duplicates of critical documents stored on a hard drive if it were to fail. Yet a surprising number of people work on their computers each day with no backup plan in place.
That in itself is catastrophic, because hard drives fail on a daily basis. It's not a matter of whether you're hard drive will fail; it's a matter of when.
Everyone today should have at least one backup of critical files, and preferably two. That means, first and foremost, purchasing an extra hard drive specifically for the purpose of backing up your data.
"Doing that will cost about US$150 to US$200," says Brian Ginn, directory of Atlanta-based TechKnowHow, a computer repair firm. "
Sure, it's not as much fun as buying an MP3 player or a new photo printer, but it costs about the same. External hard drives that plug easily into a USB or firewire port on your computer can potentially be used to back up your entire hard drive quickly and easily.
Just find out how large the hard drive in your existing computer is, purchase an external hard drive at least as large and then use the backup software that came with the hard drive to set up an automatic backup routine.
There are many external hard drives on the market today designed specifically to handle this task, including Maxtor's popular OneTouch and Seagate's simply-named External Hard Drive kit.
Most external hard drives are available in
several sizes, ranging from 100 to 400 gigabytes. Get a kit large enough to hold all of the contents of your entire hard drive. That way, you'll just be able to push one button and back up everything.
Some people are used to backing up only their data files. When backup media was expensive and slow, this approach made sense. But it's no longer a good idea, given the way that operating systems today want to store data files.
If you're a user of Windows XP, for instance, and you haven't changed the default locations of the files you create with your productivity applications, you'll have most of your data files tucked away in a "my documents" folder on your main system drive.
But there are other files crucial to the daily operation of your computer that are located elsewhere. Trying to figure out exactly where all of these files are is too much of a chore to make it worth your while.
It's never a bad idea to have a duplicate copy of just your data files. For this, rewritable CDs or DVDs are suitable. You'll most likely be able to use the same backup application that comes with your external hard drive to backup to CDs or DVDs.
If not, you can always use the backup applet that comes with Windows, located in the "start" menu under "all programs, accessories, system tools."
And what if your data exceeds the capacity of an external hard drive? Never fear. You can do what's called "daisy chaining" external drives, so long as they offer both USB and firewire ports. The Maxtor and Seagate models do.
That means you'll be able to hook up one drive to another and then run a cord from the primary drive to your PC or notebook. Essentially, your PC or notebook will see two drives.
Restoring your backed up data is a subject that's too often overlooked. Many backup programs store files in a proprietary format.
This means that when you use one of these programs to back up your files, you can't simply turn to a backed up copy and retrieve the data.
You must first have the program that backed up the files installed. Sometimes, of course, that's inconvenient, and you want your backed up data in a format that you can read at once without the program you used to back up the files.
So you'll need to decide up front whether you wish to store your data in the proprietary format offered by traditional backup programs such as those provided with many external hard drives today.
If not, look to backup programs that merely automate the process of copying large numbers of files and folders to another drive without compressing those files or storing them in a special format.
You can find a number of such programs at NoNog's Disk Backup Tools Freeware page (http://www.nonags.com/nonags/diskbk.html).
Programs like Ezbackitup and Copier run are small and simple, run on every version of Windows, and best of all are completely free.
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