Solutions for backing up and storing data safely

Things have moved on since the days when business was done mainly on paper and the only things you had to worry about were book worms and fire.

These days, with your precious information stored as electronic bits and bytes, there are many more things to worry about. Things like your hard drive crashing, lightning striking your PC, or the computer itself being stolen or lost.

All these things will happen to you at some point which is why every computer user really needs to prepare for the worst and, if that doesn’t happen, be pleasantly surprised.

There are two things that you need to protect and those are your actual data including accounting files and documents (the most important) and your computing environment, consisting of your operating system and installed programs.

Installing a second hard drive

I mentioned in a previous article, Buying a Business Computer, that I always make a point of installing a second hard drive in any computer I own. This is used to store a copy of the My Documents folder containing all my data files. I use free programs such as Karen’s Replicator and Microsoft’s SyncToy to automate the process of copying files to the second hard drive.

Both are simple to use and allow you to specify a folder to copy from (your My Documents folder) and a folder on the second hard drive to copy it to. You can schedule either of the programs to run every day and back up your work. In this simple way, you are protected if your main hard drive should crash and, even if you accidentally delete a file, you can retrieve the copy from the backup on your second hard drive.

Most laptops will not allow you to install a second internal hard drive but you can always use an external hard drive which you can plug into it on a regular basis. External hard drives are now very reasonably priced and more than worth it, as far as I’m concerned.

Off-site Backups

The problem with the second hard drive idea is that you won’t be protected if your computer is ever totally lost or destroyed. What you also need to do is to back up your data in another location so that, if the worst should happen, you would still be able to access it.

The rise of networks and online Internet-based data storage services has made it much easier to keep a copy of your data in a different location. You can back up the data from your primary PC to any other PC you regularly work on and to Microsoft’s web-based SkyDrive service, using Windows Live Mesh. The great thing about this is that, not only do you get backup copies of your data, but you can also make changes to your files in any location and all other copies of the files are updated to reflect those changes.

It would be extremely bad luck indeed for all those computers and SkyDrive to be out of action at the same time. SkyDrive allows you to store 5 GB of information for free and you have the option of purchasing more space if you need it. I personally use a similar service called Dropbox, and I hear very good things about another one called SugarSync.

Fast Disaster Recovery

Setting up a PC exactly the way you want it can take a long time, especially if you have a hard drive crash. My solution is to use a program like Acronis True Image to create an exact copy, or image, of my hard disk drive, including operating system and installed programs.

This means that, should there ever be an unfortunate event and you lose your drive, you only need to  install a new hard drive, restore your system from the image you made of it, and copy over the data from your latest backup. Having a recent hard disk image can shorten your disaster recovery process from days to an hour or two.

Be safe out there!