Sunday, January 9, 2011

Protect your data with automated backups

The question isn't whether your hard drive will fail, but when. So if you aren't already making regular backups of your data, today is as good a day as any to start.

I use a belt and suspenders approach to backing up my data.

At home I keep a 1 TB external hard drive that I connect to my laptop, and I do a complete backup of all contents on my laptop's hard drive.

I also have a separate 1TB external hard drive just for photos and videos. Onto this hard drive I back up photos from my laptop as well as my wife's desktop.

For this I use a program called SmartSync Pro, which I bought several years ago and now costs a one-time fee of $45. I'm sure there are multiple other programs out there that will do the job. I like SmartSync Pro because it is pretty easy to choose what folders I want to back up and to create a variety of backup profiles.

The external disk drives have advantages and disadvantages. The advantages are no service fees once I buy the disks. Also, it would be much more convenient to access my files if my laptop fails. On the negative side, if my house burns down or I have some flooding or theft or other disaster that wipes out my laptop and external hard drives at the same time, then I'll be out of luck. So I also use an online solution.

For the suspenders, I use For $5 per month, Mozy makes a complete online backup of my entire hard drive. It works in the background and starts a backup whenever I'm connected to the Internet. I chose Mozy because it is a fixed price with unlimited storage space, and the other services I looked at were economical for smaller amounts of storage space but would have been far more expensive than Mozy for the 500 GB I have backed up online. The upload rate is relatively slow - it took about a month to get the whole hard drive backed up. And I haven't been yet forced to test the ability to get my data back (fortunately.)

Like signing up for life insurance, it is easy to put off the set-up of data backups. It is a hassle, and no one likes to confront the possibility of dying - or losing all of your digital life. You can at least take care of one of these today with five minutes signing up with Mozy or some similar service.

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