Tuesday, November 27, 2007

When Your Computer Info Vanishes Part 2

Last week we began a discussion of the vulnerabilities of the hard drive in your computer and how it is not a matter of if your computer hard drive will fail; it is a matter of when it will fail. The hard drive is a critical component of any computer. It stores information that allows the computer to run programs, surf the web and perhaps most important, it serves as the “file cabinet” for all your pictures, letters, financial information and even recipes for the holiday ham. It remains one of the few parts that is mechanical in nature. That is, it has moving parts. Moving parts break. When they break your information is essentially lost.

Last week we discussed establishing a routine for backing up your information to a CD. This week let’s look at some other options.

I can remember not too many years ago delighting in the fact that hard drive prices had dropped to all time lows. You could buy a new hard drive and pay “only $1 for each megabyte” of storage. Well may of us in the technology field thought we had died and gone to heaven. How things have changed. I got a flyer in the mail the other day featuring $99 price for a 380 gigabyte hard drive that connects to your computer using the standard USB port. Quick math shows that the cost of each megabyte of storage is now at 1 cent. (Would that gas and milk prices followed this trend.) This makes backing up your information to a portable hard drive a great option.

These new portable models are about the size of a small paper back book and need no power other than what it gets from your computer’s USB port. You just plug it in and you can copy valuable data to the drive and put the drive away for safe keeping. Keep in mind that this portable hard drive is a mechanical device prone to failure, but since you will not be using this drive for other tasks, its innards should last a lot longer than the hard drive in you computer.

Another simple and quick back up strategy is to keep one of the inexpensive “memory sticks” dedicated to backing up selected data. This is not a good solution for long term storage as there is a finite number of read/write cycles these little plug in devices can handle. Since they are cheap and hold lots of information, they do provide some level or peace of mind.

So there are many options for “where” to keep your back up information files. The real issue lies in having the discipline to actually do the backing up. As discussed last week, for financial information it is good to back up each session. For other information most of us will just not take the time to weekly or even monthly back up even though we know we should. Well Internet comes to our rescue again. There are on line services that will do all of this for you.

There are several inexpensive on line services that you can subscribe to that will do all your backup up for you. Once you subscribe, you identify what files you want to have backed up. Software downloaded from the back up web page is installed on your computer. Each hour or minute, or day or week, etc., (you decide) your computer sends copies of the selected files to this back up service where they are stored and available for retrieval if you need them. Most services charge by the amount of data you have stored on their system. You will need to have an internet connection and if your files are large, this connection should be a broadband. (e.g. RoadRunner or Cincinnati Bell DSL. Some that are popular are: www.datadepositbox.com , www.carbonite.com and www.mozy.com. ) Since I have not used any of these services I can not recommend any of these but they are all reputable companies.

Whatever way you choose to do it, you do need to back up your valuable information. The amount of time, frustration and money that you will spend to try to recover lost data is significant and in many cases you will not be able to get it back.

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