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Please Back Up Your Data

You really need to back up your computer data.

It’s as simple as that. There is no form of computer storage that isn’t vulnerable to data loss. Sooner or later, a loss is certain to happen. The consequences can be tragic.

There are several ways to perform this vital task of safeguarding your data. One way is to purchase an external disk drive. For around $100, you can buy one that’s probably larger than the drive that’s internal in your computer. These drives often have software that automatically copies data from your computer’s drive to the external drive on a schedule.

While a good solution, external drives don’t protect from all threats. If there’s a fire or flood, it’s likely the data on the external drive will be lost. If there’s a theft, the data is lost. Not only that, it may be in the hands of someone who could use the data to conduct identity theft or other crime. Some external drives may encrypt the data, which is smart.

I recommend that most computer users use a remote backup service. These services work by encrypting and transmitting your data over your Internet connection to a remote server, where it is stored in encrypted form.

The two most popular examples of this type of service are Carbonite and Mozy. I use Mozy, so I’ll talk about it.

I pay $4.95 per month to use Mozy, but that’s because I have a lot of data. If you have less than two gigabytes of data — and many users fall into this category — Mozy can be free to use.

To use this service, you establish an account. Then, you install their software. After this, you’ll make the initial backup. This can take a long time — perhaps several days. After that, the software copies only new or changed data to the Mozy servers, and the backups usually don’t take very long. In any case, these backup sessions occur in the background, and you’ll hardly notice they’re happening.

You can configure the schedule for these incremental backups. I have my computer make several backups each day.

The Mozy software isn’t perfect. A few times it’s failed to make the backup for several days before I noticed. I’ve never had to restore a file (thankfully), but the software lets you restore a single file or groups of files.

I urge you to use either of these services. As more of our data, photographs, video, and memories are on our computers, we need to be vigilant in our custody of this data.

More information:
Mozy company site
Carbonite company site
These Services Make Backing Up Your Files Safe and Inexpensive (Walt Mossberg of the Wall Street Journal)
Five Best Windows Backup Tools

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One Comment

  1. John Tucker February 5, 2009

    Online backups are great. You should try a restore to understand how to do it. In the event that your hard drive dies and you need to restore it is easier if you have done it once or twice to know the steps. People should also double check that the backup software is backing up all the files they want backed up. If files are not stored in the default locations sometimes they are missed. I have seen a number of people use online backups to protect their photos, but the default backup set only checks for files in the default location, such as “My Pictures”. Photos that were stored elsewhere were missed.

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