There are certain things we all know we should do: change the oil every 3,000 miles, choose different passwords for every online login, and back up our computers. Though I know better, I sometimes get to 5,000 miles before changing the oil, I can’t remember 500 different passwords, and I rarely back up my computer. I am a bad person. While mom showed me how to balance a checkbook (thanks mom!), no one ever showed me how to back up my computer. Now I can return the favor and teach my mom, and you, how to back up your system.
Your computer’s hard drive has moving parts and all mechanisms with moving parts eventually break. Sometimes it takes years, or decades, but it’s usually when you’re in the middle of a doctoral thesis. Modern technology has created a new type of drive to combat this problem, a Solid State drive. While this type of drive doesn’t have any moving parts, it still runs on electricity. What all this means is simple: one day your hard drive will fail. The only thing you can do is prepare for that day with a regular and reliable backup system. There are two types of data backup methods and you can use one, or both. It depends on how badly you’ll miss the pictures of your kids’ first steps… hint, you should do both.
The first system is to create a local backup, most commonly on an external hard drive. There are a lot of choices, but I’m a fan of Seagate’s GoFlex line of external drives. They offer two versions: a network attached drive that connects to your wireless network ($130 at Amazon) which allows you to back up multiple computers to the same drive, or a USB attached drive which is intended for a single computer ( $90 at Amazon). Set up for both systems is as easy as running a software disk. Answer a few questions, select the files you want backed up, or select everything. The default selections are probably your best bet as it will keep your files backed up on a regular basis automatically. One handy feature is that you can restore entire backups, or select files. You can even choose versions of files, so if you spent two hours rewriting your paper on “Magical Birds of the Amazon,” and decided your third version was best, you’ll be able to restore it. Seagate’s software makes the daunting backup process quick and easy, so you’ll be on the road to peace of mind within minutes of unpacking your new drive.
The second system is to create an off-site backup. If you’re as lazy as me (um, as busy as me…), this is the option for you. Crashplan works on both Windows and Apple computers. Choose to back up to another computer on your network, a friend’s computer, a local external drive, or to their servers. I recommend you use their servers for several reasons. First, it’s cheap. For a mere $3/month you can backup one computer, or for $6/month you can backup as many as 10 computers with unlimited storage. Second, it’s reliable. Backing up your computer to another computer on the network or a friend’s computer has the same risks as backing up to an external drive – they will all eventually fail. Crashplan has redundant servers, so your data is backed up on multiple servers for safety. After running through their simple setup, access your files through the program installed on your computer or through their website.