Ever since I lost nearly all of secondary school work a year after leaving, I have been rather anal about backing up. I did a lot of work outside normal academic requirements in secondary school. It was where I first learned to design, build my own websites and handle organizational work (150+ people) as a head student leader. I was given plenty of space and freedom to do what I like to. If I were to put down the defining turn of events in my life, it will be down to two things. Being born in a low income family and developing my non academic qualities fully in secondary school. These were golden moments and I have never regretted them. You can be sure how devastated I was to lose all soft copies of my memories in this period.
It is often difficult to value a backup till you really need one. Most people end up finding out the hard way, like I did. I hope this article sheds some light on how to make this process easy.
Always have at least two hard drives. It can be 2 internal drives on a desktop or 1 internal and 1 external drive for a laptop. Never run with just 1 drive. The moment the drive physically fails, you are in trouble. It doesn’t matter if you partition your 1 drive into 2 partitions or more, a physical failure (common in mechanical hard drives) will kill both partitions because it affects the entire drive.
The first drive will contain everything. The second drive will serve as a copy of the first.
There are two basic ways to back up. The most common option is a simple file copy. Fancy backup software are just glorified copy and paste programs. There is no need to shell out that much cash for something so easy. I use AllwaySync for this. There are many free alternatives out there as well.
The second more advanced option is to do imaging. It’s a simple concept. What an imaging program does is to take a complete snapshot of your system. If anything goes wrong you simply restore the entire snapshot. It’s the same as going back in time. The best part of an image is that you do not have to reinstall windows and your programs when things go south. You just put the backup image on and you’re back within minutes. Norton and Acronis have found ways to charge you over the top for this. I personally use Macrium Reflect which is as powerful and free.
Do a full image backup (second option) once a week. It takes less than an hour and you can set the system to shut off on its own after backing up. This will ensure if anything goes wrong you will have a complete backup available that is at worst a week old.
Run smaller backups (first option) every 2 days or so. I do it daily at the end of the day. What this does is to backup your documents folder (or any folder you define). There are a more benefits to doing this frequently outside a system failure. Say you woke up the next day and made some really bad edits on your document. Worst still, you hit save and close the file. If you do a daily backup you can just restore a copy from yesterday. It works better with higher backup frequencies.
There are various online tools that can be used to help back up. Some of these tools may not be outright backup programs but can do the job amazingly well. Online backups are golden because they are offsite. You can make 10 copies of everything on 10 drives but if your house catches fire, so will all your backups.
Dropbox is better known as a place to put files so that all your devices can access them. What it also does is an online backup. Whatever files you dump in Dropbox is saved online with file revisions. This is incredibly useful and fully automated. It can completely replace the first backup option mentioned above. Dropbox is free for 2GB but I have been able to increase that to 15GB easily without paying. You can sign up here. What I do is to put everything I am working on into Dropbox. Because I have a 40GB sized Dropbox (thanks to 25GB from the One X) I also save photos shared with loved ones in Dropbox.
Many of us have huge music collections. It’ll really suck to lose all of that. Similar to Dropbox, cloud storage is often the best way to back up music files. The big guns are Google Music, Amazon Cloudplayer and Apple’s iCloud. Unfortunately, most of them are not suitable for non US customers. I personally use mSpot that does the trick for free. It takes in about 4000 songs without needing you to be a paying customer. You can stream your music to any device including your phone. Of course, if your drive goes up in smoke, your music will still be safely stored on their servers.
Storing Photos Online
Besides music, the next big footprint on most systems are photos. There are various ways to keep a backup online. Services like Flickr and Picasa are more traditional online photo storage options. Social networking sites can also do the job. I am picky about keeping my photos stored online in their full resolution (social networking sites down-sample their images). I currently use Picasa. Before Google Drive, the rates for Picasa were really good. About US$5 a year gave you an additional 20GB on top of the 1GB free. Now the price is US$2.49 a month. I am being grandfathered into the old plan so it’s still worthwhile for me. Maybe not so for new customers. Hunt around for online photo storage options. There are plenty of them. Backing up photos online also allows you to access your photos anywhere and easily share them. Photos are a great example of files made for cloud storage.
If you care about your data you should find ways to keep a copy of them. There are many ways to make backing up easy and free. Don’t wait for accidents because they do and will happen sooner or later. Losing your memories isn’t worth the lapse.