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Wednesday, December 26, 2007

“I wish I had backed up…”

Most people learn the hard way to back up their computers – I know I did! It was 1995 and I lost everything on my hard drive - my banking, documents, my daughter’s school assignments, elaborate PrintShop projects. If hard drives had been larger back then, I would have lost a whole lot more! The pain of recreating what I could, and learning to live without the items I couldn’t recreate, was enough to teach me to start backing up on a regular basis.

I was lucky to have learned that lesson so early – learning it today would have cost me thousands of irreplaceable photos in addition to everything else.

Computers can fall prey to fire, flood, spilled liquid, theft and falls and almost any other calamity you could imagine. But by far the most common enemy of your computer is hard drive failure.

All hard drives fail. This is a fact of life, pure and simple, no ifs ands or buts. The only variables are 1) when exactly will your hard drive fail and 2) how well will you survive it?

Google released the results of a 5-year hard drive failure rate study in March of 2007, with some surprising numbers:
“About 3% of drives failed in the first three months, 1.8% in the first 6 months, 1.7% in the first year. Failure rates jump to approximately 8% in the second year, 9% in the third year, fall to 6% in the fourth year, and jump back to 7% in the fifth year. “

It WILL happen to YOU! You will save yourself heartache and countless hours of work by backing up. And…backing up is easier than you think! Following are two easy options, AND a list of which items you should back up.

Online Automatic Backup
The easiest and safest is automatic online backup. Two of the least expensive are Mozy (http://www.mozy.com/) and Carbonite (http://www.carbonite.com/). Mozy even has a free version, convenient if you don’t have a lot of data to back up. But even the paid versions of each of these products are very reasonable and offer unlimited backup space. The initial backup takes awhile, sometimes more than a day, but subsequent backups are very fast - minutes. You can still work on your computer while it’s backing up, so there’s no inconvenience even on the initial backup. And you can schedule backups to run daily, weekly, monthly – whatever you need. Your data is encrypted for security and stored far, far away.

External Hard Drives
External hard drives, once very expensive, are now quite inexpensive. You can get yourself a large hard drive for right around $100. Simply plug it into your computer with a USB cable and copy your entire My Documents file and any other important data right to the drive.
Once you’re done copying, store your external drive in a different location from your computer. While having them on the same desk is convenient, it won’t protect you from a thief, fire or flood. Better yet, buy two and alternate – keeping one offsite.

Items to Back Up
Back up or copy your data only (items you created yourself). That would be your documents, photos, music, banking, client lists. Don’t bother backing up your actual programs (like Word, Excel, etc) since if you have to replace your hard drive, you will also have to reinstall Windows, and restoring a backed up program just doesn’t work in Windows. Make sure you know where your original program CDs are, and keep them in a safe place.
You will, someday soon, be very glad you backed up!


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