Preventing the Heartbreak of Lost Data

One of the questions I hear most often from my residential clients as they drop off an ailing PC is, “will I lose all of my pictures?”  In many cases, I am able to save most, if not all, of the data on their hard drives (pictures, emails, addresses, browser bookmarks, etc.)  My commercial clients almost all have some type of classical backup mechanism in place – everything from simply copying important files onto a shared network folder on another PC to manually-swapped tapes in a tape drive to automated remote backups onto Internet servers.  But my residential clients don’t normally think about backing anything up until it’s too late.

I guess I can understand their tendency to procrastinate about backing up their data.  Until recently it has been time consuming, tedious, and expensive.  I’m happy to say thing have changed for the better.  I’ve been recommending Carbonite to my residential clients – and I use it myself.  For about $60 per year, and less if you pay for more than a year in advance, you get unlimited backup space for anything on your PC.  A small, unobtrusive software program gets downloaded and installed, then you choose which folders to back up, and you can basically ignore it until you need to add another folder or you need to recover one, a few, or all of your files.

Of course, it’s still not a bad idea to make copies of important files onto recordable CD or DVD media, or onto external USB drives.  This approach provides a quick and convenient way to recover backed up files.  However, if you store these CDs, DVDs, or USB drives in your home then your data is not protected from natural disasters such as flood or fire, or from less disastrous circumstances such as losing them or accidentally erasing them.  To avoid the natural disaster threat, you could ask a trusted friend or family member to keep your backups, but that adds tedium and complexity.

In my opinion, automated, encrypted, online backups offer good protection at reasonable prices.  Using one of these services (there are many others besides Carbonite) transfers your risk of data loss to someone else, and that someone else is likely to have the expertise and facility – redundant power, controlled environment, and geographically distributed servers – necessary to mitigate that risk.

Andy Anderson

Andy Anderson

The Information Technology "Renaissance Man." With a formal education in Computer Science and over 33 years of professional experience, Andy lived through the personal computing revolution and into the Internet Era. While still providing and managing mainstream commercial products, he now specializes in applying Open Source solutions and virtualization technology to small business IT issues.

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