Backing up for individuals and home offices

In the previous article, I wrote on backing up I wrote about how to and what to backup if you are a micro business. Here I want to go into what I believe is needed if you have only 1 to 3 computers to backup. Much of the information is the same, so please excuse the redundancy.

The #1 item I replace on computers is the hard drive, it is a mechanical device and fails. The #2 device is the power supply.

Without a copy / backup of your data, you will lose something and regret it. Yes, I can send off the drive to a “clean” room to recover data. As a rule of thumb it will cost about $1,000 to get your data back, and that is not guaranteed.

You can backup to another computer (I don’t recommend this), a high capacity USB drive ( I also don’t recommend that), an external drive, a Windows Home Server, or a NAS device. You can “copy” via drag and drop or use a backup software program.

The Windows 7 built in backup is easy and flexible compared to the Vista one. If you still use XP, I have a complete article over here

To get to the Windows 7 backup just click on the Windows icon in the lower left of the screen and type “backup” in the Search box. Out of what appears in the list should be “Backup and Restore” under the “Programs” heading. Once open click on the “Setup Backup” text and begin. By default it finds your hard drives, mapped drives (drives connected to another computer, server or NAS) and any burners you have.

The next screen has two selections, “Let Windows Choose” or “Let Me Choose”, if you want to know what Windows selects automatically click on the blue text “How does Windows choose what files to backup?” Here is what it currently states.

If you let Windows choose what is backed up, the following items are included in your backup:
•    Data files that are saved in libraries, on the desktop, and in default Windows folders for all people with a user account on the computer.
o    Only local files in libraries are included in the backup. If you have files in a library that are saved on a drive located on a different computer on a network, on the Internet, on the same drive that you are saving the backup on, or on a drive that is not formatted using the NTFS file system, they aren’t included in the backup.
o    Default Windows folders include AppData, Contacts, Desktop, Downloads, Favorites, Links, Saved Games, and Searches.
•    If the drive you are saving your backup on is formatted using the NTFS file system and has enough disk space, a system image of your programs, Windows, and all drivers and registry settings are also included in the backup. This image can be used to restore the contents of your computer if your hard drive or computer stops working.

As you can read, this is a lot of stuff, however, it won’t save information stored in locations that are not “default Windows folders”.

If you choose to select the folders yourself, make sure to get the main folders listed above, EXCEPT, I do not recommend getting the entire “AppData” folder, it can be huge. If you are an individual I don’t see the need to backup the “LocalLow” or “Roaming” folders under AppData, businesses, especially with a Domain, should back this up. Under the AppData/Local folder you will need to backup as appropriate, the Windows Live folder (if you use it). If you use Outlook, you will need to backup the entire C:\Users\User Name\AppData\Local\Microsoft\Outlook folder.
After you select the folders or use the Windows default you simply follow the directions to complete the process. As the backup is running you can see the status, also notice in the middle of the window that is automatically schedules it for you.

The disadvantage of a weekly backup is what you created, updated and received since then. If you backup on Sunday and the hard drive crashes or laptop is lost on Saturday, then all that you have done in the last week is gone.

This is why, if you have an “Important” PC (and I don’t know of too many that are not important) make sure it has RAID 1 (mirrored hard drives), just spend the money. Most inexpensive computers or laptops do not support RAID; you need to check with the manufacturer or the maker of the motherboard. If you really want your data, I highly recommend you extra money on a system, the motherboards cost $50 more (on up), and an extra hard drive is about $75. For that small amount the vast majority of the time, if a hard drive fails, you have the information on another drive and you keep chugging along while you or your IT company order a replacement drive.

If you only have one computer, Seagate and Western Digital make external drives with built in backup software, buy 2 or 3 of the same model, connect them to your computer and let them run their backup. Rotate the drives weekly, that way you have files up to 3 weeks old, in case you deleted one that you need. Put the drives that are not in use into a fire resistant safe.

DO NOT USE THE EXTERNAL DRIVE AS YOUR STORAGE DRIVE! Use it as a backup so the data is on your laptop or computer AND the external drive. If you do, then you don’t have a backup.

If you have 2 to 10 computing devices in your home, and they have important data (pictures, videos, documents, databases, emails) get a Windows Home Server (WHS) and have them backed up to it. A WHS cost about the same as a regular PC, it makes image backups of each PC on the network, is shares data easily. Here is a link to an article I wrote on the virtues of a WHS, remember this article is from 2009, my new one is bigger and faster, however the features are the same.

If you prefer, there are also Network Attached Storage (NAS) Devices that are inexpensive. They normally have multiple drives in a RAID format, and most also have backup software that you install on your PC or laptop. I personally use the QNAP and the IOMEGA systems.

Until we meet again, have a virus free week!

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