Data Backup – Is it necessary?

One of the most frustrating things that can happen to your computer is a hard drive crash, and it will happen when you least expect it. Most hard drives these days consist of data platters read by an actuator arm. These platters are constantly spinning when data is being written and read. Because of the amount of movement they go through, they will eventually go out. The life span of a hard drive is hard to calculate – some will last for 10 years, while others may only last a month or two.

There is one thing you can do to minimize the irritation a hard drive crash will cause… BACKUP. The cost of hard drives is very minimal these days, but the value of the data on the drive is not. Many people keep copies of their wedding pictures, the births of their children, honeymoons, anniversaries, family vacations, etc. These things cannot be replaced. A backup can save these things from the unexpected.

Backups can be done in many ways, and here are some of the least expensive options:

  1. Flash Drives – These pocket-sized drives can store in excess of 12,000 pictures on a drive that cost less than $50. In general, they can last longer than a standard computer hard drive because flash drives use solid-state memory, which contains no moving parts.
  2. On-Line Backup – There are hundreds of companies out there that are willing to store your data for a price. As in any industry, there are some good ones and some bad ones. Let’s look at a few good ones – in no particular order - for the home consumer…
    • Mozy – Mozy offers a very affordable home option - less than $60/year for unlimited space. Backup options can be set to run at scheduled times or on demand. Consumers can even try them out with a free 2GB backup with no strings attached.
    • Carbonite – Carbonite offers consumers unlimited data backup for less than $60/year. After you install the initial software, Carbonite will automatically backup any changes to your system so that you never have to worry about it again. They also offer a very quick restore with minimal work. They also offer a 15-day free trial so that you can see how it works.
    • Memopal – Memopal offers a 200GB backup plan for just under $50, but unlike the others, they offer the option of backing up multiple computers. They also give you the option to log into your account from any internet connection to view your data.
  3. Hard Drive Image – The price of hard drives is very low. If you have a large amount of data that will not change, such as 100GB of family photos or other important data, it may be more economical to duplicate the data to another hard drive and disconnect/store the drive in a safe place (fire-proof safe or safety deposit box).
  4. Network Backup – Many home users today have more than one computer in the home. It costs next to nothing to create a small home network, and it would just take a few minutes to copy and drag the important data to the 2nd computer. If one computer were to crash, you would have backup data on the other. As long as you continue to keep putting your data on both computers, you should feel comfortable that your data will be safe.

There are many more options to keep data backed up, but most of them come at a steeper price. The important thing is to make sure that you have done something to protect your data. If you don’t think about doing it until your hard drive crashes, it may be too late.