One of the most neglected maintenance procedures by PC users is backing up data. Though an easy and quick process, users do not think about it until they lose an important file Ė at which point it is to late.
To perform a data backup two components are necessary, a backup medium and a listing of files to be backed up. Additionally, depending on backup device used, backup software can be used to perform automate backups.
There are two types of backups that can be performed depending on the media. An attended backup is when human interaction is needed to perform the backup, such as burning data to a CD. An unattended backup does not require human interaction at the time of the backup, such as using a tape drive with backup software.
There are several media for backing up data and which media to use depends on the amount of data and current hardware. For a substantial amount of data where the user does not want to attend to the backup using tapes would be the best selection. For a small amount of data where the backup can be attended then a CD/DVD would be the best choice.
The hardware configuration of the computer also plays a role in selecting backup media. Most new computers come equipped with either a CD or DVD burner so all that is need is a small investment in writable CDís or DVDís. Other media such as external hard drives, flash drives, tapes and online services require an additional investment in hardware or monthly fees.
The table below lists each type of media and the associated pros and cons.
|CD/DVD||Media is inexpensive. CD can hold up to 700MB while DVD can hold 4.7GB. Easy to make multiple copies.||No automation. Depending on CD/DVD drive can be slow process.|
|External Hard Drive||Media can be inexpensive. Drives sized up to 500GB. Some drives ship with backup software for automatic backups.||Can be damaged if dropped. Not easily stored off site.|
|USB Flash Drive||Media can be inexpensive. Drives sized up to 8GB. Small device so easily stored off site.||Small footprint makes drive easy to lose or misplace. On older USB ports can be slow.|
|Tapes||Media is inexpensive. Can automate backup. Media easily stored off-site.||Drives can be expensive. Harder to implement.|
|Online||Easy to automate and secure.||Monthly fee based on amount of data. Slow without a broadband connection.|
Data to Backup
The most important part of the backup, regardless of the media, is determining which files should be backed for the best protection. To start all data files created by the user should be backed up. If using the default data directory in Windows then these files will be stored in the My Documents folder. In addition, some programs create their own data directory so it is important that these files are located and included in the backup.
Quick Tip: To make data backups quicker and easier set the default directory for all programs to the same directory.
To find any data files that might be located in different directories use the search feature in Windows. Some common file extensions include:
- .DOC (MS Word)
- .XLS (MS Excel)
- .PPT (MS PowerPoint)
- .WPD (WordPerfect)
- .PDF (Adobe Acrobat)
- .JPG, .BMP, .TIF, .GIF (Graphics or Photos)
In addition to the user data files the C:\Documents and Settings, which is the location of the My Documents directory, should be included in the backup. The C:\Documents and Settings directory includes additional data files and personalized settings for each user of the computer. The directory stores the following information:
- User profiles
- IE Favorites
- Outlook Express data file
- Outlook data file
- My Documents directory
- Desktop settings
Lastly, the most important part of the backup is to store a copy of the backup in a different location than the computer, such as a safety deposit box. This ensures that the data is protected in case of a disaster at the location of the computer.
Backup Media Recommendations:
The SanDisk 4GB Flash Drive is a small but powerful backup device. With a 4GB of storage and portability this device makes an excellent backup solution.
The Maxtor One Touch External 200GB USB 2.0 Hard Drive offers quick, efficient, and reliable backup protection. Easy to setup and small enough to be portable it is perfect for backups.