Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Data Backup Strategies (09/2006)

Q. How do I backup my data using CD or DVD burners? What other backup devices are there?

A. This is part two of my column regarding backing up your all-important data in case of hardware failure.

In order to backup to a CD or DVD burner, you must, of course, have a CD burner installed in your system. They are called “burners” because a laser actually burns little dots and dashes in the substrate of a blank disc. These dots and dashes are translated to the zeros and ones your computer understands. If you don’t have a burner, you can add one to your system for under $50.00. A blank CD ROM will store about 800 megabytes worth of information. A blank DVD disc will hold about six times that amount or nearly 5 gigabytes. CD burners will only burn blank CD’s while DVD burners will burn both CD’s and DVD’s.

Most folks have all their important stuff stored in the My Documents folder. If that is the case then the easiest way to back up critical data is to insert a blank, recordable CD (or DVD) into the drive, open up your “My Documents” folder, highlight the items you want to backup, right click on the item(s) then click “Send To” then click “CD RW.” Windows will then display a little balloon that tells you that you have information waiting to be written to a CD. Click that balloon then follow the instructions.

Most systems come with some branded CD burning software installed on the system. The latest version of Nero has a nifty backup-to-CD utility that makes backing up a snap. Backups become a little more complicated if you want to backup your email address book or all your email. If you don’t know how, you’ll need to consult with someone who does.

Tape drives backup information to magnetic cartridges similar to cassette tapes. They are usually used for large amounts of data. The tape drives themselves cost upwards of a couple hundred dollars but the tape cartridges are cheap. They are not the most reliable devices in the world and need lots of care but the data cartridges can be easily carried off site in case of a disaster such as fire or flood.

If you have high speed internet, one of the simplest means of backing up data is on-line backups. This is a means of backing up data to a remote computer located somewhere on the internet.

Beware that there is no “one-size-fits-all” for data backups – especially for business data. The type of backup you need depends on how much data you have and how quickly you need it back when it disappears from your computer. One of the least favorite parts of my job is telling a client they lost all their data due to improper backup procedures. If you aren’t utterly confident that your backups will work when needed, call a pro and get a second opinion as soon as possible. Your digital life may depend on it.

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