June 13th, 2009 No Comments

It’s 10 pm. Do you know where your backup is?

Sorry to be a downer at the beginning of summer, but this is important so pay attention for a few minutes. How long has it been since you made backups of important files? If you make regular backups, have you checked them to be sure they really work to recover your data? Are the only backups in the same room as the original files?

A friend called for help last week. Her computer picked up a nasty virus that left the Windows XP machine unable to boot. It was an older computer that was about due to be upgraded anyway so she bought a new model. She had nightly backups of the most important files, documents, accounting and tax records, and things like that so she was up and running quickly with no stress.

However, she had many gigabytes of photographs, videos and music that were too big for her to back up conveniently so the only copy was on the virus-infected, internal hard disk. We solved that problem by plugging her bad Windows drive into one of our Linux machines and copying the files to an external USB drive.

After solving her problem we went shopping and found that large-size backup drives have gotten really cheap. Our first stop was Staples. They have a 1 TB external USB drive for $149. A 1.5 TB drive is only $179. After that we dropped in at a new Best Buy that just opened yesterday. I don’t know if this is a short-term special, but they had a 1 TB external USB drive for only $119. That’s a lot of storage for the average user and at that price everyone can afford backup.

iDrive Backup Solution

iDrive Backup Solution

Another backup option that you should consider are the “cloud” storage providers that put your important files on their servers in a data center somewhere. That’s really good because it protects your valuable data from flood, fire, vandalism, etc. Two companies to check out for this service are Mozy and iDrive. These services are very reasonable – for about $5/month (both Mozy and iDrive will even give you 2GB for free!) you can have off-site storage for your most important files.

The solution I prefer is a combination of local and remote backup. Keep local copies of everything on one or more large USB drives. Also keep remote copies of the important stuff.

Whatever you do, have a plan for backup. It doesn’t cost much and will eventually save you a lot of time and money.

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