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Backups, backups, backups

Backups? Are we talking about backups? I’ve got all this work to do, life to live and we’re talking about backups?

It’s one of those things; we need to do it, we know we have to do it, yet we never get around to it. Your company computer guy, your geeky nephew, and even Rush Limbaugh remind you how important it is. Companies spend tons of money trying to remind you and make it easy for you, for a fee. There are lots of ways to do it. USB drives, flash drives, online backups and even, gasp, optical media. So let’s talk about a few of them. First we need to think about what we need to backup. Things you need, things you REALLY need, things you need RIGHT NOW, and things you are going to miss years from now that really matter. With digital photography and camera phones, so many of those wonderful precious memories you take for granted in that dusty old photo album your mom has may be around way after you’ve lost those iPhone photos. To keep that from happening, you guessed it, you need backups.

The first form of backup I’m going to talk about is the flash drive. These are great for work files, taxes, home work and home finance information. You can store them with you or in a safe and you can recover them quickly. How quickly you can recover your data is almost as important as if you can recover it at all. Keeping a flash drive with you on your keychain or in your purse can prove invaluable when the laptop gets left in the car or at home. Many can hold upwards of 64 gigabytes and can store a ton of information that you can get back in a flash *rimshot*.

The USB drive is big, clunky, kind of slow but it can store everything. I love these for my music, movies, iTunes purchases and photos. They’re the perfect companion to the home desktop or docking station. I don’t know about you but my music and movie collection spans terabytes. Storing years of money and time collecting and organizing songs on a single hard drive is nuts. Yet in my travels its happened dozens of times where a failed hard drive on a computer wipes it all away and you really don’t know what you’ve lost until you go looking for it or have to buy it again. So snagging a good multi-terabyte USB drive is a great way to protect yourself. Many of them come with built in backup software and can make the process pain free. I recommend buying a new one every couple years and storing the old ones off site in case of a fire.

Optical backups, CD’s and DVD’s are a pain to use and probably not worth the effort anymore. Enough said.

Online backups… you’ve probably heard the radio ads for Carbonite and Mozy, and even services provided by your computer manufacturer like Dell Online Backup. In a nutshell you install software on your computer and either periodically or constantly, the software backs up the data you designate via the internet to the company servers, where hopefully they are taking all the steps necessary to keep your data safe so you don’t have to. Great idea right? Maybe, but there is a catch. And that catch is data transfer. If you have gigabytes and gigabytes it might take weeks to get the initial backup of your data to their servers. Then if the unthinkable happens and you need to recover that data, it could take forever to download your data again. If you are just backing up pictures and family information, that’s great, but if you are trying recover your company’s business, it might put you out of business. That’s why I recommend online backups for data you already have backed up somewhere else, where you can get at it quickly in an emergency. Instead, use the online services for long term storage. You also need to think about your ISP; do they charge you by the gigabyte for data transfer? You might get cut off or hit with a surprise bill if you count on backing up a ton of data online.

They really have made it easy to back your important things up. But it’s important to understand the pros and cons of every method. No method is perfect, but a good combination and a little forward thinking can ensure that you’re never that guy who watches months or years of work roll down the steps into the company Koi pond.

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