27 February, 2010
Don’t back up at your own peril
“It’s 5 pm already & I just want to get out of here, I’ve been working flat out all day – backup? No stuff it – I’ll do one tomorrow”. Big mistake – because tomorrow morning you turn on your PC and are confronted by a simple new greeting in black & white “PLEASE INSERT BOOTABLE DISK” these words seething forever into your memory as the day that you lost everything!
Having a reliable backup system for our PC is just as important as having insurance for a valuable car that you drive each day! But what do you need to backup and why? Anything that you create, just like I am typing this article right now needs to be backed up – if you value its existence. In the IT world we call this “user data” and it can be an accounting file that you create or put figures into each week, a series of word documents that you type and maybe send out as letters, excel spreadsheets such as recorded information like rainfall figures, important emails that you have sent or received, photos that you have taken and removed from your camera, assignments from Uni, customer information in a database, partnership agreements, articles that you have downloaded from the Internet, address books or even just the bookmarking of your favourite internet sites that took hours to find.
If your user data is something that you cherish or value then back it up. Why? Because a PC stores all user data electronically on a hard disk drive (HDD) – a spinning metallic platter, rotating on bearings & spun by an electronic motor – sounding complex? Yes it is one of the miracles of modern computer science but due to its complexity it can fail & some failures are catastrophic with no hope of repair (you have just lost all of your data). The good news is that backup systems can be simple, cheap, easy to use and lightning fast.
Gone are the days when your accounting file took 30 minutes to backup onto 9 floppy disks. Blank CD’s or DVD’s, USB memory sticks (thumb drives), tape drives or even external hard drives are the way to go. Simply observe the rule – “user data should always be on two different mediums at any one time”. Don’t ever think that because you are worried about running out of room on your PC that you should move your user data off the PC and onto just one backup device – because it could fail too.
Normally user data will chew up only 10% or less of the space on a hard drive – it is software, games, music and movies that normally fill a hard drive up. One song will use as much room as 300 of these computer news articles! For home users just backing up their user data is usually enough – for many businesses there can also be a need to backup their operating system when they have comprehensive software and system settings that are so complex that it would take days to reconfigure a replacement PC.