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Data Backup: Can You Afford Not To?

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No matter what route you choose, the choice to back your data up is a good one.

In a recent study by Seagate, customers were asked how much the data on their computers was worth. Sixty percent said that it was worth more than $1,000. If you ran the risk of losing $1,000 dollars with a single power surge or outage, wouldn’t you want to put some safeguards in place? Most of us wouldn’t carry that much money around for fear of theft, so why would you allow your data to go unprotected? Fortunately, data can be duplicated and saved in a safe place in the event that you need computer repair and lose some of it. Here's how to do it.

Data Loss: The Facts

graphic with statistics about data loss

Backup Basics

Local Backup

There are two types of backup available to you: local and cloud-based. The first type, local, can be implemented in a few different ways. The easiest, but least secure, way is to simply copy the files that you want saved onto a USB drive. You can copy any valuable files onto the drive and then keep that with you or in a secure location. However, while this may be a temporary solution, it is hard to keep up with all the different file versions you may have created; it is also hard to back up a large number of files.

The easiest method of local backup is to use a network attached storage (NAS). Seagate’s GoFlex Drive, for example, can be connected to your wireless network and automatically back up the data from every computer in your house. In the event of a natural disaster, you can just grab the hard drive and go – no data lost.

Another local method of backup is implementing RAID in your computer. RAID stands for Redundant Array of Independent Disks and it's a technology that allows the drives in your computer to be redundant – that is, it makes copies of your data on another hard drive installed in your computer. If you’re looking to get extra performance out of your hard drive, this will boost your processing speed as well.

RAID works in a few different ways. The first way is that it writes the exact same data to two disks at the same time. This is how most people will use it for solid local backup. Other methods for RAID require at least three disks, but offer even greater security.


Cloud-Based Backup

The second type of backup that you can use is the newer technology afforded us by "the cloud." With this, you can store your data on servers hosted around the world, and they have their own methods of data redundancy. This offers the greatest amount of security.

The way that this technology works is relatively simple: You buy the service or, in the case of something like Dropbox, simply sign up for a user account. After this, you’ll install a program on your computer and specify the parts of your computer that you want to back up. The program will handle uploading any changes that are made to these files and upload them to the distributed hosting plan used by the service you've chosen. (For some background reading, check out A Beginner's Guide to the Cloud:What It Means for Small Business.)

Cloud-Based Downsides

However, there are a few downsides to this plan. The first is that it uses the Internet instead of a local network for backup. If you have a lot of large files, this can take a very long time to synchronize. In addition, unless you buy your own server space, you will probably have to pay for the service. CrashPlan is a good service that only costs $3 a month (as of 2012) for a single computer backup, and $6 for multiple computers with unlimited storage. If you’re a connected professional, this is a good solution.

A more complex route, but without any of the downsides of the aforementioned methods, is to use a service like Egnyte, which combines the benefits of local and cloud storage. It caches files locally so that you can use them quickly, but then uploads them for data redundancy and backup. The only downside is that it costs $24.99/month (as of 2012), although this price will support up to five users and 150 GB of data.

Be a Nerd, Play It Safe

No matter what route you choose to go down, the choice to back your data up is a good one. Even us nerds have had data loss happen to us – that’s how we learned to be so safe!


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Andrea Eldridge

Andrea Eldridge is CEO and co-founder of Nerds On Call, an on-site computer and laptop repair service for consumers and businesses. Eldridge writes two weekly columns, "Nerd Chick Adventures" in Redding, California's The Record Searchlight, and "Computer Nerds On Call", a nationally syndicated column for the Scripps-Howard News Service. She regularly appears on ABC, NBC, FOX and CBS on shows such as "Good Day Sacramento", "Good Morning Arizona" and "MORE Good Day Portland", offering viewers easy tips on technology, Internet lifestyle and gadgets. Eldridge also works with Demand Media to produce content for and has written a book, "Smartphone101:…