Friday, January 30, 2009

Backup Software

In this age when much of people's lifetime work consists of computer data, you DO NEED some reliable way to back up that data in case of error or catastrophe. It is incredibly painful and frustrating to work for hours or years on some project and have it all vanish in an instant. In the bigger scheme of life, you might actually benefit from a hard disk crash every once in a while if it forces you to rethink your life (just like a forest fire clearing out the dead wood), but it's still something you want to avoid if you can.

Precisely because data backup is so important, you can't rely on backup software to do it for you. Depending on some outside process only lulls you into a false sense of security. Backup software also backs up much more data than is really needed and unnecessarily complicates things.

If you truly care about your data, then you need to know where it is at all times. Instead of backup software, you should develop an intelligent backup strategy. Here are a few elements of mine...
  1. Don't worry about backing up applications and systems files. These can be reconstructed from the original software disks that you have stored in ONE place. For backup, you only need to worry about files that contain REAL WORK (e.g. image files, word processing documents, spreadsheets, etc.). These are what you need to keep track of and replicate in multiple places.

  2. Wherever possible, store all of your new documents in a single file folder by month. For example, nearly all of my work this month is stored in a folder named "January" in the subdirectory "2009" on my computer. When I copy this directory to a DVD or an external hard disk, I know I have preserved most of my work for the month.

  3. Buy an external USB hard disk. (They are quite cheap now and will probably have more storage than the disk on your P.C. or laptop.) EVERY TIME you complete a significant amount of work (say, more than 30 minutes worth), copy the data file you have worked on to the external hard disk (using the same monthly filing system as described above).

  4. Whenever you leave your home base, disconnect the external hard disk and hide it from view, so burglars don't walk off with it. (It's not normally something that appeals to burglars—vs. a computer itself—but you don't want to make it obvious.)

  5. Whenever you leave home base with a laptop, assume that it will be stolen or broken, and back up your latest work to the external hard disk.

  6. At the end of every month, back up the contents of the month folder onto a DVD (or whatever your permanent medium may be). Make TWO copies of the same DVD. Store one near the computer where it is handy. Store the other far away, preferably in a different building.

  7. Be suspicious of any application that stores all of its data in a single file or folder than can't be easily backed up on one DVD. It make not be a necessary application to begin with.

  8. Wherever possible, store your data on the web. Servers maintained by big-name corporations are for more reliable than any computer you can own. (When was the last time you heard of a Google or Yahoo server crashing and losing people's data?) A document that exists both on the web and on your computer hard drive can be considered adequately backed up for now. A document that exists ONLY on the web might also be adequate if the work is something you can reproduce if you have to (like an address book).

  9. Don't try to have a perfect backup of everything. Instead strive for "good enough" backup of documents that are most critical to you. Divide your data into things you MUST preserve (like the novel you have been working on for years) and the data you would LIKE to preserve if possible (like your old email). Concentrate your backup energy on the important documents, copying them frequently, and worry less about the optional stuff.

Data backup, like everything else in life, is a balance of risks and costs. You need to be paranoid, but not too paranoid. You should at least be paranoid enough not to trust some outside entity to back things up for you. Know your data, feel it, sense what it wants and how it might go bad. Only then can you feel truly secure.


  1. You cannot stress enough on how important computer backup is. It is a horrible feeling when everything is lost due to a crash.

  2. playing a number of the prevalent computer games. These amusements acquaint heaps of. how to get ogyoutube

  3. negative behavior patterns with the lives of numerous children. Recreations now days have. is gamehacker free ?