Since you understand the importance of backing up your files, and decided which files are worth backing up, you need to determine how you will backup the data. The amount of data that you want to back up plays an important role in this decision.
External Hard Drive
External hard drives offer the same functionality of the hard drive within your computer with the added benefit of being portable and quickly removable. External hard drives offer storage space from 16 gigabytes up to 2 terabytes of data. If you won’t be backing up more than 16 gigabytes, consider using a simple thumb drive which can be purchased from a local office supply store or Amazon.com. Otherwise, invest in an external hard drive with the amount of data you need and more. Keep in mind your collection of files will grow over time, so the external hard drive of your choice should provide plenty of spare disk space.
The advantage of using an external hard drive is that your computer perceives it to be just another hard drive; similar to the default C: drive. Once you connect it to your computer, it will automatically be assigned a letter to designate the new drive (i.e. E:, F:, G:, etc.). In this way, the external hard drive can always be available for automatic back ups. Back up software can be configured to automatically back up certain files to the external hard drive on a schedule.
Backing up your data to a CD or DVD is a more affordable alternative to using external hard drives. The unit cost of a 700 megabyte CD-R (with jewel case) is about 50 cents and it should last for a few years if stored properly. If you are only backing up the amount of data that can fit on a couple CD’s and prefer to take your back ups to another location for security, this is a great solution. However, writing data to discs is much more time-consuming than hard drives. The discs will also consume more physical space than a hard drive. Plan for storage space accordingly if you will be keeping multiple copies of CD back ups.
Over the last few years, personal online back up services have become increasingly popular. The hard drives on personal computing devices are becoming smaller and less relevant as we are utilizing online storage. If you’re backing up only a couple of gigabytes of data, consider a service like DropBox or SpiderOak.
Using a back up service provider is essentially shifting the burden of buying and maintaining back up media (i.e. CDs or external hard drives) onto the service provider. If you’re backing up any more data, consider companies such as Crashplan, BackBlaze or Mozy, which provide back up services for reasonable annual fees. These companies are experts in maintaining servers and encryption technology to keep your data safe. They also provide their own software which can be configured to perform back up tasks on your files at any time. In the event of a disaster, the process for restoring (i.e. downloading) files can be slow. However, companies also offer the option of restoring your files directly from an external hard drive which they will ship to you for a fee.
Setup you Backup System
Check back for the next post in this series where I explain exactly how to set up your backup system. If you would like be automatically notified of new articles, sign up for the newsletter!