“I should have backed up.” I’ve heard this many times from friends and colleagues. These are the words that are uttered whenever they have a major problem with their computer. I even had a good friend who had to spend a few thousand dollars to try to recover his data from a hard drive crash.
“I meant to do it.” That’s the other thing I hear when people have a crash. The simple answer is that “yeah, you should have done it!” Since you can’t turn back the clock there is no real excuse not to do regular back-ups. Oh, don’t get me wrong. There are actually plenty of excuses, but none of these will help you save your data. The most common excuses are that backing up data takes time and that it is difficult.
In the case of time, it is better to spend a few minutes each week backing up than trying to recover data after you have a problem. Likewise, today backing up is not nearly as hard as it was a few years ago.
Years ago I worked in an office where I was the most tech savvy, and so the weekly back ups became my responsibility. We used an annoying tape drive system that connected through the serial port on the PCs. This meant that the computer had to be shut down, restarted and then this drive engaged. We found doing the back-ups at lunch on Friday was a good time—but it meant that I ate lunch at 4pm. It also meant that I didn’t do my actual job for much of Friday! And once summer hours started and we worked half days on Fridays the back-ups were put on hold!
Today, things are much easier and every user should be able to back up in minutes; with no IT staff required. I offer a few suggestions for the small office/home office user:
*USB drives – If you’re working on an important file you should put it on a thumb drive. This way if anything happens you have a copy. There are very large USB drives that can hold all your files. I personally try to back up all my files and documents at least weekly. And while traveling, files can even be stored on portable devices such as an MP3 player or on your digital camera if you forget your USB drive.
*Portable hard drives – As with USB drives there are options for external hard disk drives that can be used as a backup destination, and for file sharing. The problem is that these are often used for the latter purpose (i.e. file sharing) and thus aren’t accordingly back-up.
*Multiple PCs – If you have multiple PCs, including a laptop and a desktop, one easy solution is to keep your important files (including those MP3 tracks you purchased) on multiple machines. Regular backups from one computer to another ensure that your data exists in multiple places. Just be careful that you don’t replace a newer version of a document with an older version (use dates or version numbers to keep things straight and archive older versions).