Monthly PC Tips

Back Up Your Data

January 2011 – by Per Christensson

If you own a computer and have not recently backed up of your data, I have a New Year's resolution for you: Start backing up your data. Now.

No computing tip is more important than the simple command to back up your data. It is amazing how many people I come across who never back up their computer files. They save all their important documents, photos, songs, and other data on a single hard drive, hoping nothing bad ever happens. That is not a risk worth taking.

Just for a moment, think about all the important data you have saved on your computer. How would you feel if you lost it all? For many people, "horrible" would be an understatement. Just losing your digital photos is like having years of photo albums go up in flames. What would you do if you lost all those papers you've written or all those tax documents you've saved over the years? Do you want to pay for all those songs you downloaded again?

The sober truth is that there are several ways to lose your data. Your hard drive might fail. A virus could wipe out important files and your data could become corrupted. Your laptop could be stolen. Files may be accidentally deleted. I don't mean scare you, but these are all real possibilities. If you don't have a backup, your data will be gone forever.

Fortunately, backing up your data is a simple and inexpensive process. The easiest way is to create a backup is to set up an external hard drive as a dedicated backup device. You can get external drives with one terabyte capacities for less than $100. Better yet, both Mac and Windows computers now include backup utilities, which means the software is free. Mac OS X users can create automated backups with Time Machine and Windows 7 users can schedule backups with the bundled Backup and Restore application.

If you want even more control over your backups, you can purchase a third-party program, which may provide more options than the built-in solutions. Several online backup services are also available and provide an easy way to back up your data online. Regardless of what route you choose, the important thing is to automate your backups, so you don't go for several weeks or months at a time without backing up your files.

If your data is especially valuable (such as data stored on a business computer), I highly recommend having multiple backups. At least one of your backups should be stored in a different location than your computer. Personally, I have one external hard drive backup that updates hourly, an online backup that updates once a week, and two offsite hard drive backups, which I manually update on a monthly basis. It may seem like a lot, but my data is that important to me.

I have worked in the computer industry for over a dozen years and have seen too many people lose their data. Please don't let that be you. This year, make a point to backup your data.

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