Monday, March 28, 2011

Backing It Up!

by Doula Brandi

I’m techno-illiterate. I don’t know a mother board from a video card. I only recently upgraded my CRT monitor to an itty bitty flat screen, but I digress. One thing I do know is that you MUST backup your computer, frequently. This has been drilled into my head by various individuals who shall remain anonymous. However those same mysterious individuals helped me immensely in compiling the information contained in this post and I am grateful to them! I’ll call them Mr. Chips and Ms SavvyData for the fun of it.

If you are working from home, you will have important files on your computer that you cannot afford to lose. These files are too important to leave to chance. When chances are, at some point in your life, your computer will crash. You may experience a natural disaster (think Japan) or a fire (heaven forbid) or even theft, but we must be prepared for these events while we hope that they never happen.

First rule of backing up is: JUST DO IT! And do it now. “It is 100 percent certain that ALL hard drives will fail, you just don’t know when. Also backup means a duplicate copy. Make two copies at a minimum” advises Ms SavvyData.

Be intentional in your efforts, schedule backups. Keep your backup device (disk, external hard drive or flash drive) in a safe place. Let your backup device dwell where you like to live, in mild temps away from moisture and out of the sun. Don’t use them for other purposes! If you use a flash drive for backup, don’t use it for school or another project. Keep it dedicated and in its own special place to prevent it from being lost. Flash drives disappear easily as we have discovered in our own home. Flash drives are subject to failure if they are: placed close to anything magnetic, dropped or exposed to water (such as being used as a toddler teething device). If you plan to backup on disk, remember that quality is important.

Secondly you should determine your frequency intervals. If you only add new information monthly, then a monthly backup should be sufficient. If however you are adding new data daily, such as research or photos then you should consider a daily backup. Make it part of your start-up or shut-down routine.

After you have committed to backing up on a disk or flash drive regularly, you may find that this method is not meeting your needs. If you have huge files (photos or video) you may need an external hard drive, or even an extra hard drive mounted in your current computer. You may be interested in one of the online backup subscription systems such as “The good [subscription services] take it seriously, with server farms located in multiple locations, high security buildings, climate controlled, and built to withstand natural disasters; earthquakes, tornadoes, etc. Also they take the security of your data seriously against hackers and such. You could truly sit back and relax, and they will have your data backed up in multiple locations, so if one server/building fails, you are covered” says Ms SavvyData. So if you think that this type of service fits your style, do your research and find a reputable company to entrust your data with. Mr. Chips advises that even if you do have a backup subscription you should still perform targeted backup on certain very important files, so in reality you would have your backup backed up!

If you’re forgetful (like me) or need very frequent backup, you may be interested in an external hard drive with backup software that you can schedule and forget. Or you can utilize a RAID system. (umm, yeah, this is sooo not coming from me…) “If you want a complete minute to minute backup without having to think about it, you can have a mirror RAID set up on your computer that backs up everything continually on the second internal hard drive. The only problem is that your computer may run a bit slower at times since it is writing all the information twice” advises Mr. Chips.

So what exactly is RAID and how does it work? “The simplest and fairly inexpensive is RAID 1 (Redundant Array of Inexpensive Disks). It is two hard drives installed with an exact mirror copy on each hard drive updated in real time. If one drive fails, you have the same exact information on the second drive. Just replace the failed drive with a new one and it will rebuild the information. No lost time or lost data. Of course there is always the chance they fail at the same time. Higher levels of raid [are available], with more disks, and more redundancy, so more drives can fail at the same time and still not lose information, and more cost too” explains Ms SavvyData.

A last parting thought from Ms SavvyData “… all this backing up does no good if the unthinkable happens, fire, tornado, flood (unless you have one of those online services). Make two copies and bring one to a friend or relative’s house and have them store it for you. Maybe get a backup buddy, commit to a weekly or monthly schedule, two external hard drives a piece, one to keep at your house and backup new files on and one to keep at your friends house, swap them on a predetermined schedule. Small businesses do this all the time, they send their backups home with employees, swapping them out nightly or weekly.”

Disclaimer: I do not subscribe to Carbonite nor am I recommending it; I am simply using it as an example.

Thanks again to Mr. Chips and Ms SavvyData for their expertise!


  1. I just have text files for my business, which are pretty tiny, so I use dropbox. I can get away with the free version. But I love how all my computers with it on it synchronize

    It's got an internet file that saves it and syncs your hard drive files on any computer you set up with the system when they connect to the internet.

    I do also try to keep my finished files on a flash drive, but not for the files I keep changing constantly.

    If you want to try the free version, use my link below.(I get extra space, though I'm not hurting, I think I've used less than 1% still)

    Sync your files online and across computers with @Dropbox. 2GB account is free!

    Now, as for my pictures? I'm not sure what I want to do. Whether I want to pay for Dropbox to get enough space, Do flash drives every now and then, or something else, I haven't decided. But most likely, I'll wait to decide how I want to mess with that and the house will burn down and will decide for me that I decided too late.

  2. Cool, a free service! Thanks for sharing Melissa! I'm not too the point of needing a RAID system yet but I'm leaning that way eventually. Right now I back up on disk, but think that I'd prefer to use a flash drive for the ease of it. For me it has to be easy and almost automatic. I'm too forgetful when I'm not being a procrastinator.

  3. Thanks for sharing, Melissa. Dropbox sounds great. With writing, my files change every day, but they probably get backed up once a week. Loosing a whole week of work would be devastating.

  4. Brandi, I've been thinking about carbonite. I keep telling myself I'll do it when I get the extra fifty bucks or whatever it costs to use. Then again, I'll probably wait until it's too late and I loose half a MS or something.

  5. Naomi, after you sign-up you'll have to share you're experience with us!