You wake up, grab a cup of coffee, fire up the computer and you’re greeted with the message “Hard disk not found”. No big deal. All is not lost. You have a backup, right? If you don’t you really have two options, eat the loss and move on or shell out thousands of dollars to a data recovery specialist. Even then, there is no guarantee that you’ll get everything back. Maintaining a good backup is something I can’t stress enough. Of course, the only time people are interested in backups is after disaster strikes.
RAID vs Backup
A common misconception is that RAID is a form of backup. While forms of RAID do help protect from disk failure, it simply will not help you in the event of a virus infection that wipes out your files or natural disaster.
Local backup is relatively inexpensive and easy to set up. It’s as simple as plugging in an external hard drive and telling Windows to use the drive as backup. Windows will automatically back up all of your personal data as well as a system image should you need to do a complete restore. The primary benefits of this approach are the cost and ease of setup. A 1TB external hard drive could be had for as little as $60. The biggest disadvantage is that if a natural disaster takes out your PC, your local backup is likely to go with it. While there are plenty of third party local backup utilities, the one built into Windows works well enough for most people.
- Plug in the external drive.
- In the AutoPlay dialog box, click Use this drive for backup. The Windows Backup Wizard will start.
- In the next dialog box, select Let Windows choose (recommended) and click Next.
- Review your backup settings. Here, you can change the schedule of the backup. By default, it is configured to run every Sunday at 7PM. If everything looks good, click Save settings and run backup.
If you have a broadband internet connection, off-site, or cloud, backup is an attractive option. For a small fee, usually a couple of dollars a month, you can back up all of your data to the cloud. What makes this great is that the backup can be configured to be run in the background with minimal performance impact and your data is safe, even if your house burns down. That’s not to say cloud backup is not without issues. For one, if you have a lot of data, the initial backup could take a long time. Same is true if you need to restore a lot of data. Also, if you have a metered broadband connection, this type of backup may not be ideal.
There are many providers for cloud backup, all with different plans, features and pricing. One I like is Crashplan. For $5 a month, you can back up as much data as you want to the service. If you don’t want to backup to the cloud, Crashplan allows you to backup to friend or family member’s PC by using a code.
Which One is Right For Me?
There’s a simple answer to this question. That is, they both are. It’s most ideal to have a combination of local and cloud backup solutions. The local backup will help you immediately since you don’t have to wait while you download your data from the internet. The cloud backup serves as a backup of your backup. This way if something goes wrong with your local backup, the cloud is there to make sure you’re covered.