Do You Really Need to Backup Your Computer?

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backupA lot of our IT business comes from people whose computers have crashed – or are about to (running slow, etc). Their first question to us is “Can you get my files?” Thankfully, the answer is quite often yes, but anytime we have to say no, it really hurts. It’s happened to us, so we know! We feel your pain!

Here is an outline of the ins and outs of backups.

How to decide if you need backups.
  • What information do you have on your computer?
  • How much of it can you afford to lose? Think about how long it’s going to take you to recreate all that information.
 What is likelihood that you’ll really need a backup?
  • Loss of data can be caused by a malicious virus that either creates an inability to access your data, or destroys the data entirely. Sometimes you will get symptoms like a noticeable drop in performance (really slow), but not always.
  • Loss can also be cause by the hard drive dying. When that happens you get no warning.
How often do you need to backup?
  • How much work do you want to risk losing?
    • If your computer usage is just personal, and you store everything in the cloud, backing up your settings once a month would be sufficient.
    • If you use your computer occasionally, like once a week, for volunteer committee work, back up those files once a month.
    • If you use your computer every day for volunteer committees, school projects, or working at home, back up those files once a week.
    • If you use your computer ALL day, every day, back up your files every day.
What kind of backup is for you?

Computer to computer: exchanging data files between two or more computers so that each computer has both its contents and the other computer’s.

  • Cost: no additional software or hardware is required. Expect to spend 1 to 2 hours setting it up
  • Pros:
    • It can be scheduled to run at specific times.
  • Cons:
    • Computers need to be networked together
    • Both computers need to be running
    • You need to remember to do it if it’s not scheduled
    • There is only a single set of data backed up and available for retrieval
    • It is not fire/disaster proof

Computer to External Drive: files are written to a “box” that sits on your desk

  • Cost: ~$100 for hardware & software, plus 1 to 2 hours setting it up
  • Pros:
    • Back up destination is always available (not reliant on another computer to be on).
    • Multiple sets of data are available
    • The device can be used as portable storage (think of a huge jump drive)
  • Cons:
    • Extra box on your desk
    • Not easy to share data with other users
    • It is not fire/disaster proof

Computer to Network: backing up contents of computer to a specific network storage device (NSD)

  • Cost: $100 for NSD + $50 for software + 2 hours to install
  • Pros:
    • NSD can also be used to easily share files
    • Backup destination is always available
    • Multiple sets of data are available
  • Cons: It is not fire/disaster proof

Computer to Internet: Backs up data or contents of computer to web-based storage

  • Cost:
    • Free “Personal” Account with a 2 gig limit (any number of computers)
    • $5/month/computer “Personal” Account with unlimited storage
    • $7.50/month/computer “Business” Account with 3 gig storage per computer (more available for additional cost). The business account includes installation, monitoring, and help retrieving data when it’s needed.
  • Pros:
    • It is offsite
    • It is disaster proof
    • It is secure
    • It is in the US
  • Cons: Retrieving files from a web-based service can be time consuming.