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16
Mar
2010

When Disaster Strikes

by Administrator

When Disaster Strikes

You’re working along on your desktop when you hear a loud whirring noise and your computer crashes. No big deal, you think to yourself, I’ll just reboot it. You hit the good old reset button and see the BIOS screen flash by but instead of booting up into your operating system, you see a “disk not found” error. Now, the panic starts to set in as you realize that your hard drive has crashed, taking all of your critical data with it…but wait, you DID have a backup, right? No? Well, guess what…say goodbye to your data. All your pictures, music, videos, documents…gone, may they rest in peace.

I’m a bit of a “backup fanatic”.  I actually back up my backups at my home office and I am always surprised at the number of people that will purchase the Binford 9000 PC with 16G RAM, fast DVD, giant drive, state-of-the-art color photo printer and a $200 surge protector but don’t have a single backup of anything.

From external drives to backup services, there are many options for backups so there really isn’t any good reason to NOT back up your computer.  Let’s take a look at some of them.

External Drives.

Go to amazon.com and search for “backup drive” and you’ll be presented with a plethora (yes, I said plethora) of external backup drives from 160 GB to 2 TB and even larger if you have the budget.  Drive pricing is at an all time low and a typical 1 TB external drive can be purchased for less than $100.  Backing up your PC is as simple as plugging in the USB cable to your PC, plugging in the power on the drive and you’re ready to go.  If you’re using Windows 7, you can use the built in backup software under control panel.  If you’re using Mac, you can use Time Machine (my personal favorite) but make sure you purchase a drive that is compatible with a Mac.  Some external drives even come with backup software, but be sure to read the reviews as some of this backup software is quite clunky and not easy to use.  It’s usually best to schedule backups to run when you’re not working on the PC as you may find your PC performance affected when backing up

Online Backup Services

There are many online backup services such as mozy.com or carbonite.com (google “backup services” and you’ll be overwhelmed by the choices) and most are simple to use and inexpensive.  Most of them will provide you with a certain amount of disk space at no charge so you can test them out.  To begin, you sign up for an account, download their client and use that client to determine what to back up.  You pay a small monthly fee that is either flat-rate or  based on the amount of disk space you consume.  While these services work great for the most part, you may find that if you have 500G of data you wish to back up, they may not be best for you.  It’s also a good idea to only use these if you have a good high-speed internet connection, and be aware that the first backup you perform is probably going to take days.  Of course, this means that if you have a disaster and have to restore from this service, it’s going to take days for the restore.

Now, I hear some of you saying “but my PC has a RAID drive array so I’m protected”, but that is false security, as that RAID can fail as well.  Yes, it’s less likely to totally fail but in my 11 years of working with RAIDs, I HAVE seen them totally fail, so even if you have an exotic RAID set up, you should still have backups.

As a webmaster with web sites, you’re counting on your hosting company to back up your server files.  While many hosts do provide backups (as do we), you should always have your own local backup as well.  Even the best backup system can have problems.  Also, what happens when your host goes out of business in the middle of the night, or for some other reason you need your data but don’t wish to get it from your host?  If your web sites are your livelihood, then you owe it to yourself and your business to be taking the proper steps to make sure that you’re not only relying on the hosting company for the backups.

Finally, even the best backup system is ineffective if it’s not working.  Clients fail.  Connections to online services may not connect.  At the very least, you should confirm your backups on a monthly if not weekly basis.  There’s nothing worse than needing to do a restoration only to find out your well designed backup system hasn’t been doing its job.

So, take the time to set up a backup system, as well as ensuring that it’s working correctly.  Test it occasionally by moving some files then restoring them from backups.  When disaster strikes, a well thought-out backup plan can mean the difference between a ruined day OR a ruined business, to just a minor hiccup.

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