Backup Your Data!

I am sure you have often heard the phase backup your data and some people know what it means while others might just know it has something to do with a computer and that’s it.  So to clarify: to backup your data simply means you should make a copy of any data/files on your computer because for a great  number of reasons you could easily lose it.  Anyone who has ever used a computer has suffered from data loss one way or another, more often when using a word processing software such as Microsoft Word as from hard-drive damage.  That’s all well and good I hear you say, but what is “Data?”

Data: can include such items as: Photos ,(your priceless Christmas photos, your child’s first step, Holiday snaps etc.) Music, collection (such as your collection of CD’s you have saved on to the computers etc.) Word Documents, (such as copies of your birth cert, driving licence, information on your house/car insurance, letters you have written or maybe just copies of cherished emails.) and maybe even Movies: ( Home movies from that holiday, or just copies of your DVD collections) in other words all the stuff your do not want to lose which is stored on your computers hard-drive.

Now well may you ask how could I lose it on my personal computer?  Well technology is wonderful when it works but like all things man-make it can and more likely fail when you least expect it.  Data lose while using a word processor can simply mean losing that important document that you’ve spend hours creating using word only to lose it because you did not save it as you went along.  Hard-Drive damage can result from such things as knocking or dropping a laptop or a power surge on your desktop (lightening, power cuts etc..) which can fry your hard drive resulting in a lot of damage to the contents.

In the majority of cases recovery of such data is not possible and when it is possible its only partly successful.  There is Data Recover Software  that claims to recover your lost data but not with great success I may add.  So the obvious solution would be to prevent lost of your data in the first place.  In other words do not keep all your eggs in one basket, so the same with your precious data.

One tip that is useful for a laptop that has become corrupted and you can-not access the hard-drive to get some important files from it, is to purchase a  hard-drive enclosure case.  These are usually pretty cheap on eBay and come in two sizes 2.5 for a laptop and 3.5 for a desktop hard-drive.  The hard-drive is easy enough to remove from the laptop usually from an access hatch underneath it and taking off a couple of screws.  The hard-drive slides into the enclosure and it works the same as an external hard-drive by using the supplied USB lead. Very useful to remove important documents before you have to reformat a hard-drive.

So my recommendations to prevent the loss of your data is:

1.  Always try to store your documents ( Data) on a different Hard-Drive as your  operating system ( example windows XP, or windows 7/8 etc.).   Take for example if your personal Computer has a virus, or software failure the majority of computer problems will affect the operating system and often the only solution is to reinstall the operating system after reformatting the hard-drive which will delete everything on it anyway.

Purchasing a 2nd Hard-Drive is inexpensive and easy enough to install on a desktop computer, if that is beyond your technical skills an external hard-drive can be attached easily to any computers using a USB cable.  Fitting a second hard-drive is not possible on a laptop compared to a desktop in which case you will have to use an external hard-drive.   You can pick up an external hard-drive from such places as Argos, Harvey Normans, PC world even Easons very reasonable now.   The external hard-drive for your computer will not be affected if your operating systems is corrupted and can be easily used in different computers in the home.   Backing up your data on to the second hard-drive is very easy to do.   It’s just a case of copy an paste or just drag the files to the hard-drive which will show up under Computer > usually the brand name of the hard-drive > left double-click to open  on your Desktop once its attached by using the USB lead that comes with it.

2. Cloud Storage:  is another way to back up your data.  Cloud storage works much the same way as using an external hard-drive but you will need an internet connections to access it.  It is an advantage to have a good internet connection as sometimes those USB internet connections sticks can be a bit of a hit and miss affair at times.  The advantages of using Cloud Storage to back up your data is that it can be accessed using any computer any place in the world that has internet connection.  You can even use your smartphone with 3G internet connection to accessed your data, very useful if your abroad and need some documents for medical or insurance purposes as long as there are stored using cloud storage.  Examples of the different free cloud storage and the amount of free space they offer are available on my cloud storage post.

A CrashPlan+ account for off-site backups. In addition to local backups, CrashPlan can also back up your files off-site to their servers automatically.  If you don’t want to go with CrashPlan’s suggestions, you can manually choose which files and folders it backs up. To do so, click the Change button.   You can choose simply to use CrashPlan to back up files to an external hard drive (choose the Folders option), to another computer on your home network (choose Computers), to a friend’s computer over the Internet (choose Friends), or to CrashPlan’s servers (choose Online, which is the only one you have to pay for).

3. Burn onto a DVD:  to back up using a blank DVD disk you will need a DVD burner.  Most desktop and even laptops will come with a build in DVD burner. If your computer does not have a build in DVD burner it is easy to purchase an external DVD burner from many of the same places you would purchase an external hard-drive from.   Things to look out for when using DVDs to back up your data is that Rewritable DVD disks can only be burned a limited number of times before they become worn.  Always test the DVD back up after burning.  The disadvantages of using DVD disk is that they can become easily damaged or corrupted by simply dropping them or storing them too near some speakers.

The main lesson from this post is to backup your data regularly.  Just storing your files in a different location than your operating systems isn’t always enough, you need to create regular backups of your data.  No system is fool-proof as even your backup is subject to failure, DVDs get scratched, Hard-drives get dropped and USB keys get erased.  Sometimes to increase your odds of retrieving a file is to have a second backup of it, ( this is aimed especially towards students with final thesis or projects on USB keys).

The fastest way a computer or hard-drive can get a virus is by opening unknowing email attachments.  A good tip is even if your certain the email attachment don,t contain a virus you can still lose data if the document has the same name as one on your hard-drive and your email software saves attachments to the same folder your new file will overwrite the file already there.  In other words think twice before you save an email attachment on your hard-drive, at least make sure its going to an unique location.

In Conclusion if the documents are that important:

4. Keep hard-copies of your documents: it won,t stop you from having to type and format the document again but at least it will ensure you have the contents of the file, and that is better than having nothing at all.