How important are the pictures, financial records, school work and various other things you store on your computer? To me they’re pretty important. You can’t recreate some of that stuff. File backups are cheap and easy compared to the alternative. I’m not talking about full computer backups here, just your files. That’s the important stuff anyway, programs can be reinstalled.
When it comes to your PC or Mac there are a number of ways to be prepared. The way you choose depends on what disasters you want to be prepared for. Below are some scenarios where a file backup would come in handy and their related level of difficulty to recover your files without some type of backup. These are not far fetched and some of them happen more regularly than you might think. I’ve gotten calls on most of them at some point. Keep in mind that difficult equals expensive and even the easy ones are going to cost you some money if you don’t have the equipment or know-how to do it yourself.
- Computer won’t start due to operating system problems - easy - but not for most people using a PC
- Some component in your old computer dies (other than the hard drive) and you’d rather just transfer your old stuff to a new one - easy - again, not for most people
- Hard drive dies - difficult - fork over at least a grand, if you can find someone to do it that cheap
- You drop your laptop and damage the hard drive - difficult - see “hard drive dies”, but you may still lose some data
- House burns down - most likely impossible but at best very difficult - see “hard drive dies”, except this time you can probably kiss your data goodbye
- Computer gets lost or stolen - impossible - bye bye data
Each of these scenarios is made much easier, and in some cases exponentially easier, with a file backup. In most instances you can do it yourself or for free with the help of the backup vendor.
Here are some backup options for home computer users:
USB external hard drive - This is a good option and certainly better than nothing. You can pick these up at any big box store or my favorite website for tech stuff - newegg.com - for around $100 or less depending on how much data you have to backup. Here’s a link to some USB hard drives on newegg.com. Some of these devices come with backup software while others will require that you use the operating system’s built in software. Keep in mind that this option isn’t going to protect your data if your house burns down unless you bring it with you every time you leave home. I’m not seeing that happening, so we’ll just say that this method won’t protect you from fire.
Extra internal hard drive - If you have more than one hard drive in your computer it will give you the same protection as backing up to a USB drive (assuming your never going to remove the USB drive from your house). The problem is that most people won’t already have this in place and it’s cheaper to get a USB drive. If you think you have two drives have someone who knows computers check it out before you assume anything. Two drive letters in My Computer does not equal two hard drives.
Online backup - This is by far the best option. You can google online backup and the first few results are some of the top companies in the online backup business. These are generally pretty easy to setup and recover data from. This will protect you from the worst of disasters. Some of these services are free for small amounts of data and as low as $5 per month for unlimited data. Also, most of these services use encryption and other security measures to protect your stuff from internet thieves. If you're worried about it make sure to check with the vendor.