Rick's Tips for Proper Backups
Let this be a lesson to everyone... hard drives will fail. Every hard
drive in operation today will fail at some point in the future. It's
only a matter of time. Sometimes you'll get a warning (noise, error
messages, etc.) Most of the time, however, you will get zero
warning - as in our case. The drive will just stop working, the machine
will crash, and will refuse to boot. So, what are your options?
For the home user, I strongly recommend you at least backup
all of your important files to CD-ROM (if you don't have a burner, get
one!) or an external drive of some kind (tape, hard drive, etc.). Costs
have really come down on some of these drives.
If you can afford it, I strongly recommend a second physical hard
drive, either internal (inside your case) or external (a USB drive, for
example). You can set up an automated backup job to run every night to
copy all of your critical files from your computer to this second drive.
If you have a second computer or even a laptop available, copy your
files there too. Perform this backup at least once a week, or any time
you do a lot of work. There are many freeware or shareware programs
that can perform a backup for you (including a free one I wrote a few
years ago for my own in-house purposes called
Amicron NetBackup). All it does is copy files from one drive to
another at a specified time each day. That's all you need, for the most
part. (Hey, you get what you pay for).
Now, for business users, in addition to copying your
important files from one drive to another, I strongly recommend a tape
drive. Keep 3 or 4 tapes going and rotate them every couple of days.
Take one tape off-site with you every Friday, so in the event your
building burns down, you have an off-site copy of your data.
Making a drive image if your hard drive is also a real time
saver. A drive image is basically a snapshot of your hard drive that you
can restore back exactly to its original contents... so if your
primary hard drive crashes, you don't have to reinstall Windows, reload
all of your drivers, reinstall your apps, etc. I used to recommend a
program called Drive Image by PowerQuest, but apparently they were
acquired by Symantec... so the program to use now is
Norton Ghost. It's a major time-saver when your drive does
There are also a lot of companies now providing off-site backup
services. If you have a broadband Internet connection and you have a
relatively small amount of data you need saved securely in a different
location (good idea for business-critical databases, for example) you
can look into these. A Google search on "offsite backup" shows lots of
different companies. I haven't tried any of them yet, but you may want
to look into it if you fall into this category.
So here's your checklist for backing up your data:
- Copy important files to a different physical hard drive
every night (automated backup)
- Make a ghost drive image of your C: (Windows) drive once a quarter
- Burn important files to CD-ROM or DVD monthly at least
- Keep an offsite copy of your critical data (tape, CD, DVD, etc.)
- Update and check (verify) your backups regularly
Don't wait for your hard drive to fail. It will fail. It's only a
matter of time. Oh, and also, if you have a server that needs a specific
type of hard drive (especially one you can't just buy off the shelf in a
local computer store) you might want to consider keeping a spare
on-hand. That would have saved us a lot of waiting.
Yes, I'll be recording a tutorial on proper backups very soon, but I
just wanted to share all of this with you... to remind you to make sure
your information is backed up before a server crash happens to you.
Don't just assume that your backups are good... check them!
By Richard Rost
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