The Importance of Data Backups

As the manager of a computer repair store, the worst situation is to tell our customer that their hard drive is dead and we cannot recover their data.  There is nothing worse than this and unfortunately, this type of situation keeps happening again and again.

People usually do not know that the typical lifespan of a hard drive is only about 3 to 5 years.  When it dies, the data is not always recoverable by IT or computer repair shops.  Of course, there is still another way to recover the data, but the cost is not cheap.  Professional data recovery centers usually charge about $1000 to $2500 depending on the situation.  Therefore, unless the data is critical,  most people might choose to give up their data.

So, how can people backup their data and what are the options?

For Home users,

1.      For small size data backups, the most economical way is by backing up to DVDs (4.7GB) since most computers come with a DVD burner nowadays and DVD media is very cheap. Beware that a burned DVD will not last for ever depending on numerous factors, such as the media quality and initial burn error rate.

2.      There are also several remote backup sites available on the internet. (For example: “www.carbonite.com”) For a monthly or annual fee, an online storage service will provide space and allow you to upload files directly to their server. The advantage of off-site storage is ease of access.  However, this only protects your data but not your operating system and applications.

3.      For large size data backup, you can buy an external hard drive. (usually around $100 depending on the hard drive size)  Most of the external hard drives come with their own free backup software.  However, the free software usually does not allow scheduling and cannot backup operating system/applications.  That means your data is protected but programs are not.

To solve the scheduling and operating system/applications backup issues, there are two software choices that we recommend people purchase along with their internal or external backup hard drive: BounceBack or Acronis True Image.

* BounceBack – This product contains all the backup tools that you would commonly expect, such as scheduled, operating system, data file, and application backup as well as synchronization.  However, the main advantage of the software is that it creates an identical copy of your hard drive and keeps the same data structures, versus most other backup software that only create proprietary backup image files.  That means you will be able to access all of your data from any computer and be able to tell whether the backup was done successfully.

* Acronis True Image – we recommend this software when the customer likes to create several data images of their computer during different time periods.  Also, Acronis has a fast synchronization and backup speed compared to many other backup software packages.  It has most of the features that come with BounceBack.  The only drawback is that it creates proprietary image files that only Acronis software can read.

For Business Users,

1.      The most economical way is to have a Network-Attached Storage (NAS) unit connected to the network.  Netgear offers many different types of network storage solutions on their website.  NAS will have redundant hard drives built into it with a RAID configuration.  The disadvantage is that it’s an all-in-one unit that usually does not allow for upgrades and it’s not a real computer that will allow you to use it for other purposes.

2.      For companies with more than 5 people in the network, it’s definitely recommended to backup data to a separate data server that has multiple hard drives installed with a RAID1 or RAID5 configuration.  Data will be protected with automatic backups every second through the RAID setup.  It will be even better to have another removable hard drive connected to the server so the user can bring an extra copy of data home or store the hard drive somewhere else off-site on a regular basis in the case there is ever physical damage to the computer.

There are many reasons why you might suddenly find yourself without your data. The best way to be sure that your data loss is minimal is to back up regularly.

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