Not too long ago we had a customer who was having problems with their computer and stressed the importance of saving “everything” on their computer. We explained that although we will try every means possible, there are times where you just cannot salvage data. A lot of time was put into saving the data; however some files were just too damaged and would not open. We felt great about how much we were able to do for the customer. We explained that there some of the data was just too damaged, but we salvaged about 99.8% of the times they did have. They were very relieved.
So it came as a bit of a shock when the customer came back in the following day screaming about files that were “important” and no longer there. They were so upset they threatened a lawsuit stating that they didn’t think there was a judge around that wouldn’t award them money for their lost files.
I’m not sure if they ever contacted a lawyer, we never heard from one. We never contacted our attorney either; we were hoping that the law would be on our side and that it is the customers’ responsibility to backup their data.
If your information is THAT important then you really NEED to backup your data on a regular basis.
We see failed hard drives all the time in our shop. It is a very common problem. What we never see is someone who comes in with a backup of their files.
How should I backup my data?
Thankfully the days of the floppy disc are long behind us! There are several options available to the regular home user these days.
Backing Up to CDs or DVDs
Depending on the amount of data on your computer this can be time consuming. CDs hold about 700 MB of data and DVDs hold about 4.2 GB. A double layer DVD will hold about 8.4 GB. Blu-ray discs hold almost 25 GB of data and a double layer Blu-ray disc will hold almost 50 GB. The advantage to this type of backup is being able to keep multiple copies and keep them in a different location that your computer in case of fire or theft.
External Hard Drives
Because you can purchase 1 TB and higher drives this is becoming a much more common way of backing up data. Particularly with a desktop computer, because you can schedule backups with your backup software and leave the computer connected and it will backup your data when you are sleeping or at work.
However, there are a few things to keep in mind. Just like the drive inside your computer, the drive inside the unit is a hard drive and it is prone to the same problems as your desktop computer. Because it is smaller and lighter than your computer it can easily be pulled by a pet or a child yanking on the power or USB cable.
USB Flash Drive
Even though these files have grown in size and popularity over the years, we do not recommend this as a reliable method to backup your data. They are designed for temporary storage. If you are going to keep anything important on here it is highly recommended that keep those files in at least two other locations (your desktop or laptop AND as part of either an online backup, external hard drive, or CD/DVD backup).
Online backup services are gaining in popularity. Although most charge a monthly or yearly fee, some offer a small amount of storage space at no charge. Overall, this is a great way to backup your data. Not only is your data stored in a location away from your computer in case of a catastrophic loss due to fire or flood, but the company will also protect themselves by having their own backup systems in place.
The down-side is they have your data. Even though the company you choose will have privacy policies in place and your data will be encrypted, you may not be comfortable with someone else having access to your banking, tax, personal and business data.
Options for Businesses
For business networked computers we would recommend either a RAID (Redundant Array of Independent (or Inexpensive) Discs) or a Network Attached Storage. For the normal home user these options are not only more complicated to setup, but are more costly.
The Bottom Line
No matter which method you choose, definitely choose something. And if you really want to be safe it probably isn’t a bad idea to copy your most important data to CDs or DVDs and stash them someplace like a safe deposit box.
No one likes to hear that all of their data is lost.