The Modern Nerd is back again, this time preventing you from hearing two words you hope never go together when talking about your computer: Data Loss.
What do you mean, it’s gone?!?!
We store things digitally now. Computers hold our documents, school papers, reports, spreadsheets, emails, photos, everything. This makes for one tempting target the next time Murphy wants to strike. Just starting to write this entry is making me question the last time things on my desktop were backed up. If you only have your files in one location, you are very much at risk of losing them all. Hard drives have a lifespan, just like any other piece of equipment. It doesn’t matter how much or how little care you take of it, it will break eventually. There is one simple way to make sure that this doesn’t affect you for more than a few days, and that is to back up your data. There are several really cool ways to go about this, so let’s dive right in.
From the Department of Redundancy Department
How many places are your files stored? It’s a simple question that you should know the answer to right off the top of your head. If the answer is one, then I am here to help. Storing things off of your main working drive is the best way to ensure that you’re protected. We can do this online or offline and we’ll look at the storage options you have available offline first.
Viruses and power surges can’t reach a removable hard drive that you keep in the box under your desk in case the worst should happen. Buying an external hard drive with 1 TB (1024 GB) of storage space will cost you about $100. This should be ample space to store your music and important documents and pictures. Storage drives just keep getting bigger, and cheaper. One of my favorite websites of all time is newegg.com. If you haven’t heard of it, check it out. It’s like a computer toy store. They have fantastic service, great prices, and unbelievable shipping. Backing up your data with one of these drives is as simple as plugging in the USB port and the power cable, and you instantly have a flash drive on steroids.
Images vs. Files, or How to Rebuild Rome
When you decide how to store your important files off of your main working computer, you have a couple of decisions to make. The obvious ones like how much storage you want, how much money you need to spend, and where to buy are simple enough. But once you get into it, you’ll need to decide if you want to make a system image, or just take the bits and pieces that you know you can’t lose and back them up.
A system image is pretty much what the name implies. It is an exact copy of your operating system, all of the files included in it, your programs, everything. It is stored to a removable hard drive, and if you ever need to restore your computer to working order after something has gone awry, it will copy everything over exactly as it was when you backed up. When you make a system image, you can’t choose what files or programs to keep, you just keep all of them. This makes it the simplest option if you don’t want to spend a lot of time sorting through your stuff, but it’s not for everyone. Currently system image backup is available for Windows and Mac. The particulars vary, but the ideas are the same.
If you decide to just keep your files, you’ll have to start over with a fresh operating system and reinstall the programs you want if something goes wrong. Some people, including myself, prefer this method because you can pick and choose only what you want. You won’t have to let something you thought was a good idea to install 3 years ago take up space on your hard drive now.
Storing it in the Clouds
A relatively new concept that major companies are jumping on is Cloud storage, or giving you some space on their servers to put documents and the like. Google, Microsoft, and a whole host of smaller private companies are offering cheap, sometimes even free, storage online that can be accessed from anywhere.
There are several obvious benefits to these, but some not so obvious drawbacks. You can take a working hard drive with you anywhere and access it from any computer or smartphone, which makes it ideal for someone who works from multiple different locations to keep a storage drive online. You’ll never lose your data or forget to bring it with you.
However, it is not ideal for backing up your entire hard drive, for a couple of reasons. If you want more than around 5 GB of storage, you’ll probably have to pay a service fee per month. You also have no control of that data once it leaves your machine. A storage service would not ever willingly give away your data, but the number of times that it is copied from server to server opens the door for identity theft if their data is ever compromised. It would be a good idea to keep important personal information in as few online places as possible, just to be safe.
Ultimately, it doesn’t matter so much which road you choose to take, but the important thing is to make a decision about your storage options. With the amount of time and money and effort invested in your computer and what you keep on it, it’s worth protecting it to the best of your ability. As always, I hope I have given you something to think about. Never be afraid to ask a professional if you ever need advice. Thanks for reading.