Choosing The Best Option To Back Up Your Data

by Michael Menor, Network Technician
We highly recommend that all computer users regularly back up their data in order to prevent losing information in the case of a disk failure.

We recommend at the very least backing up files that are frequently changed. A basic backup strategy involves copying important files to a location separate from your hard drive.

Having more than one copy of important data is insurance against the loss of that data in an event such as a hard drive or system failure.

To make your backup strategy more complete, you should try a trial restore of your backup so you will be comfortable enough with the process to use it before you experience the loss of data.

Flash drives that plug into a USB port are a convenient technology for backups. They do not generally require any extra software and are very portable and they can be reused many times.

Flash Drive
A flash drive can serve as an external repository for important data as a protection against an event such as the failure of your hard disk.

However, a single flash drive does not have the storage capacity to backup an entire hard disk or file system, and they tend be more expensive than other storage methods for the same amount of data.

Cloud Storage
You can access your data from any computer or mobile device with an Internet connection and you don’t have to keep track of any extra hardware or external storage media.

There are many providers that offer free online storage. A few popular ones are Dropbox, Google Drive, and Microsoft SkyDrive.

Many of these are cross-platform applications that enable you to access whatever data you have stored as though it were stored in a folder on your computer’s hard drive.

CDs/DVDs/Blu-ray discs
CDs, DVDs, and Blu-ray discs are also an option for backing up data if you have an internal or external drive that can write to one or all formats:

  • CDs: 750 MB
  • DVDs: 4.5 GB (single layer) or 8.7 GB (double layer)
  • Blu-ray: 25-100 GB

CDs, DVDs, and Blu-ray discs are among your cheapest backup options (per gigabyte), and they are also among the most durable (no moving parts to wear out or metal parts to rust).

However, while it is technically possible to back up your entire system to CDs, DVDs, or Blu-ray discs by spanning multiple discs, it would be a time-consuming process that would require many discs.

External Hard Drives
An external hard drive is often the same type of hard drive as found inside most computers, only in a stand-alone enclosure with a USB or other data port that is powered by your computer or a separate wall adaptor.

As such, it is possible to purchase an external hard drive that is as large or larger than your computer’s internal hard drive, allowing you to backup your entire system to a drive that you can separate from your computer, carry with you to transfer your files, or set aside as a backup.

Most external hard drives have moving parts, however, making them more prone to wear and damage due to drops or vibration than some other backup options.

Also, some external hard drives do not operate cross-platform, which means that if your drive is formatted for use with Mac OS X, it may not be recognized by a Windows computer (or vice-versa).

External hard drives are available in sizes ranging from 100 gigabytes to many terabytes, and some are small enough to carry in a purse.

However, in whatever size you choose, external hard drives are the fastest and most versatile way to back up large amounts of data.