Byte Me Article 269 – Backup Drives

The Best Way to Back Up Your Data

This article addresses questions raised by one of our readers – Barry in Yeppoon and will focus on backup drives and software.  Besides storing important data internally in a computer, there have been any number of external storage devices developed over the years.  The first common ones were 1.2mb 5 1/4” disks and 1.44mb 3.5” floppy disks.  There have also been a bewildering array of ‘Zip Disks’ and ‘Iomega Disks’ that were mildly popular with businesses.

The biggest jumps were to CD’s that could be written to with a laser powered CD-RW and then USB memory sticks that showed more convenience and portability than anything before them.  We now see larger and larger capacity USB memory sticks and I believe the industry will continue to go in this direction however we cannot disregard the external USB hard drive (often referred to as a backup drive).

It is the ‘backup’ nickname that seems to bring so many people undone as they often consider putting important data onto a backup drive is akin to chiselling it into stone!  Any of the above devices from the original floppy disks, to CD’s to zips, USB memory stick and also USB hard drives can fail.  If anything the USB hard drives are more prone to failure than the USB memory sticks due to the mechanical nature of their build.

2016-04-23 Byte Me Article 269 - Backup Drives

A device failure can occur for a number of reasons.  CD’s can become scratched, USB memory sticks can become corrupt and USB hard drives can also become corrupt or they can fail mechanically.  Alternatively any of these devices can be lost or stolen and USB hard drive do not like being dropped or passed through a magnetic field.  If you are juggling many USB sticks for all of your photos you can also get these devices mixed up and accidentally overwrite them.

Basically, if you are wanting to keep anything important in electronic format, whether it is financial records or documents or photos of an event or loved one then you need to be keeping it on two separate devices.  Even if these devices are of the same type.  There is some chance of a single device failing but there is only a miniscule chance of two separate devices failing at the same time.  The catch here is that you should not store these devices in the same place or even worse carry these devices together with you.

We always suggest that it is best to have a computer with enough internal storage to house a copy of ALL of your files and then an external device which can also keep a second copy of everything important.  There are also ‘modern’ alternatives such as cloud storage however this option is bandwidth and Internet plan limited if there are large quantities of data involved and you should also consider the security of such storage companies if the data is of a sensitive (private) nature.

The other thing to consider is how do you ‘backup’ your data to these devices in the first place?  Most of the modern external drives come with their own backup software however as I have said in previous articles – software can be programmed to do wonderful things however it has no ability to think and as such lacks any common sense.  A backup program will not know what is important to you and so most try to get around this fine point by backing up everything.

Most backup software will try to copy your entire computer to a backup drive – including not only your important data but also all of your windows installation and your software installation.  In the typical home or small business situation all of these extra files are useless to you and only result in a backup process that can take hours to complete – like you want to do this every time?

If you are more IT savvy then you may try simply coping and pasting any new files to an external device but again it can be hard to remember what you have already transferred and so this again is not a great solution.  Next week we will look at backup software and try to sort the chalk from the cheese. 

Future Byte Me topics can be emailed to [email protected] and Bruce is contactable at Kerr Solutions, 205 Musgrave Street or on 49 222 400.

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