How do I backup my PC? - PC backup devices and software

By: Eduardo R. Zayas-Quiñones

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What are computer system backups?

Backups are electronic copies of the important documents stored on a computer in electronic form like invoices, spreadsheets, accounting books and correspondence. If you develop and maintain your own WebPages or item descriptions using HTML then these should be backed-up too.

Why should you backup?

Well, after working close to 30 years in the Information Technology industry, I have become very familiar with Murphy's Law which states: "If anything can go wrong, it will go wrong and at the worse possible time" like around income tax preparation time - correct? It's not a matter of whether a problem will occur but instead, when will it occur. Computer system backups are the single most effective means of data protection - protection of your data that is.

How do I backup my PC?

That depends on the volume of information you need to backup and the frequency with which the information is updated. If you only have a few documents to preserve, copying these to a 3 1/2 disk may be sufficient provided that the files are small enough to fit. If more information is to be backed-up then another type of computer data backup device may be the best choice. Depending on the complexity of required backups in terms of frequency of updates and amount of data then the solution may be achieved by using Operating System utilities. For more frequent or complex backups you may need a commercially available application system.

PC backup devices

Several backup devices are commercially available to choose from. For example, a way to backup your information would be copying your electronic files onto CD or DVD. This option may not be available to you unless your computer has a CDROM drive which can write to CD/DVD. If your PC does not have a built-in CD "burner" you may be able to purchase one that connects to your PC via a parallel or USB port. Make sure you are familiar with your PC specifications and product descriptions before you purchase one of these. Some CD burners come with bundled programs you can install on your computer to make the copying process easier.

I use CD's to backup my important data files. I have found this to be a very reliable and economic way of backing-up important personal and business-related data. I also used a Zip-100 Drive. You can't find these at retail stores anymore but the newer ZIP Drive models are very reliable and offer increased storage capacity.

Another innovative device in the market to help you backup is Flash Drive Memory or "memory sticks". These are normally about the size of your thumb and connect to your PC via a USB port. There is a limitation in terms of how much information can be backed up. At the present time, I know of memory sticks that can store up to 1 Gigabyte of data and their prices continue to drop.

PC backup software

You will find a wide variety of backup applications for sale both online and in some of the most popular computer and electronic retail stores. You will also find free backup programs on the Internet. If you decide to use these remember that many times you get what you pay for, particularly in terms of customer support when something goes wrong. Over the years I have used products made by Powerquest and Symantec corporations.

How often should you backup?

As often as you need to - particularly files which are updated. I backup weekly unless I have made a change to my Web pages or have created a new one. In this case, I create a backup at the end of my session before retiring to sleep.

Just a few more things to keep in mind!

Make sure you label your backups to reflect content and the date of your backup. Also, after installing your backup software, make sure it is working correctly. Years ago I knew a System Administrator who used to run backups every week. One time, a file server storing critical information for his company creashed. When time came to perform the restore operation on the server no files could be restored - there were none on the backup tapes. What went wrong? Although the System Administrator had indeed made sure that the backup application ran once a week, he never bothered to make sure that the needed data files were actually being backed up - how could one test this? Well, try restoring some of the files you have backed up on a periodic basis - this will validate that the data is accessible and most important, that it is indeed being copied by the backup application. Make sure you perform your restore in a way that restored files do not overwrite more recent versions.

I hope that you found the content of this page useful.

Ed Zayas

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