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The importance of backing up your data and how to go about doing it

What would you do if your computer failed and you were told that your data was un-recoverable? Some one once said to me backing up your data is like wearing a seat belt – everyone knows they should do it but not every one does. Many people don’t realise the importance of backing up their computer, they think that because their computer is new it won’t go wrong. Predicting the failure of a hard drive (which is where your computer stores all its information) is impossible, a hard drive can fail when brand new, it could last weeks months or years – you just don’t know. This is why it’s important to backup all your important data. You may be thinking how do I back up the data on my computer and what do I need to do it? The answer to this question varies on how much data you have and how much you are willing to spend. I will do a quick run down on the main ways of backing up data:

External Hard Drive – This is the main way that many people backup their data, external hard drives will generally be about the same storage size as the hard drive that’s in your computer, therefore you know you will have enough space to backup. One thing that I always tell my customers when using an external hard drive is – don’t leave it permanently connected to the pc. If you were unfortunate enough to be broken in to and have your computer stolen, a burglar will generally not only steal the computer but also anything else connected to it or around it. The last thing you want is to have your backup stolen as that defeats the whole object of having one in the first place.

Memory Stick – Although these devices were mainly intended for transporting files around from college to home, work to home etc, they can be used as a backup device in some cases. Depending on how much you have to backup these can become a really useful backup device, for instance many small businesses use these devices to backup their accountancy software. As memory sticks have dramatically increased in size in the past year many people will find that if they are only backing up a few photos and maybe a few word processing documents these will act as a sufficient backup device.

CD’s / DVD’s – These are a permanent backup and once burnt can’t be amended, they are also good if you need to have an archived backup of files over weeks or months say. The main benefit to this form of backup is cost, a pack of CD’s or DVD’s is very cheap these days. This form of backup is sufficient for most users, however you can’t really back up automatically very easily so you have to remember to actually backup.

Online Backup – This is a very safe way of backing up as all of your data is held completely offsite. You may be worried about – can someone access my data, or where is it being stored. All data is held in a secure data centre and is always encrypted (meaning that even if some one were to gain access to the files they wouldn’t be able to open them). The main issue with this kind of backup is the amount of data you can backup, due to the speed of broadband (especially here in the UK) you are limited by the amount of time it will take to backup your computer. Online backup can also work out expensive if you have large amounts of data. However for someone backing up crucial documents and a reasonable amount of pictures I believe this is the best way of backing up and one that I actually use my self, for the sheer fact of knowing that no mater what happens be it fire, hard drive failure or theft you know that your data is safe. This form of backup can also automatically backup as your working.

Well that’s a run through of the main ways of backing up but the main thing is to remember to actually backup, I get so many people that when suffering a data loss say “I wanted to backup, I just never got round to doing it”. The other important thing to bear in mind is don’t just store your information on a backup, some people think that by storing all their photo’s on their external hard drive they will speed up their computer. The amount of data stored on a computer has nothing to do with the speed of it. Don’t forget that a backup can go wrong too, just as a hard drive in a computer can fail so can an external hard drive and this is why it is important that you always have 2 copies of your data. The final thing I have to say is make sure that you have checked your backup after you have backed up there is nothing worse than loosing data then going to restore it only to find that its corrupt – it once happened to me before I knew anything about computers and I learnt the hard way.

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