This article focuses solely on home computers and methods of backing up data for personal use. Businesses require more attention to continuity and disaster recovery features, where home users mostly need convenience and simplicity.
Online Backup Services
One of the most convenient methods of backup, online services also accommodate offsite storage issues… no need to grab the hard drives when evacuating for a hurricane. There are many, many choices of providers for online backup services. Some services offer free plans for under 2GB of data and unlimited plans for as little as $5 per month. Most services provide encryption and other data security features. Several offer an extensive list of options such as accessing your files from your iPhone or flexible scheduling. While data capacity, pricing differences and number of computers will weigh on choices, speed and ease of use should also be considered. A few providers offer what is called “offline backup” using a portable hard drive that is mailed to them for the initial upload of large amounts of data and then differential backups are done over the Internet. What you need to know before choosing a provider for online backup is how much data you need to store, from how many computers you want to upload, and just what features are most important to you.
For those with a small amount of data to backup, flash media can be a good choice. Either thumb drives or SD cards can be purchased as large as 64 GB. You can find the smaller sizes (up to 8 GB) for less than $20. The ability to encrypt files and use password protection keeps your data secure. Backups to flash media generally require a manual backup process. Using an automated software and leaving the device attached to the computer doesn’t really keep your data safe in the event that something happens to your computer (like a fire or theft). If you want to use flash media and an automated software, try buying two or more thumb drives and swapping them out occasionally so that one is always in a different location than the computer.
Secondary or External Hard Drives
There are several different ways that a second hard drive can be used as backup. One is to install a pair of identical drives in a RAID 1 configuration where your computer duplicates all data on a second drive (sometimes called disk mirroring). The down side to disk mirroring (other than all disk writing takes twice as long) is that the drive is physically installed in your machine and if your whole computer gets fried, chances are both drives are fried at the same time. An alternative to a second internal drive is to buy an external (USB or SATA) hard drive. This scenario is very similar to the flash media scenario with much more size capability. In fact, you can actually duplicate your hard drive in this manner and store a copy somewhere safe.
Network Attached Storage
Network attached storage devices (NAS) are an option if you have multiple computers connected to your home network and want a centralized storage location for your data and/or backups. NAS devices are a bit more expensive than external hard drives. They can be wireless, but are usually faster when plugged into your router. There are several types/brands with features such as USB ports for expansion and configurable security settings (in case you want to limit your kids access to only their files).
DVD / CD
At a whopping 22 cents per disk (holding up to 8 GB), DVD media has to be the cheapest method of backing up your data. Using DVDs for backup data copies is usually a good choice if you want to backup up a specific data set for long term storage – like saving copies of photos from last year’s vacation, or storing all the files from your remodeling project that was completed last month. Although spanning data across multiple DVDs can work, most people don’t want to deal with swapping out disks and making sure they are all labeled and numbered properly. And for some, data security on a DVD – which cannot be password protected at the file system level – is not enough.
Date: July 12, 2010