Our computers have become a necessary part of our lives. We use them for doing work, corresponding with friends and family and even for entertainment. Over time, most computer users create many file that are important documents which could cost both time and money if lost. Data backups are the best way to ensure you don't lose any of those files.
Many people think of backups as something large companies or computer geeks do. Or they might plan on doing it when the get the chance. Every one of those people has either already lost data due to some kind of problem with their system or they will one day. Every piece of computer equipment has a lifespan and is going to fail one day or another.
When that happens, you'll be faced with one of two things. On one hand, you'll have a backup of all your critical information and can restore it all back onto your repaired computer or a new replacement. On the other hand, you'll lose the financial information, music, digital photos and all the other important files on your computer.
There are, unfortunately, an infinite variety of ways to lose data. Besides hardware failure, computers can be destroyed in fires or floods. Hard drives can be damaged by power surges caused by lightning strikes or data lost by a child randomly hitting the keyboard. Viruses can infect systems and erase hard drives.
Often the only way you'll get your data back is by having a backup copy. And even if a data recovery service can get it back for you, it can cost hundreds or even thousands of dollars for them to do so.
What Do You Need To Backup?
For the average user, it's usually not necessary to backup every file on the computer, which would require large storage space. But at bare minimum home users should backup personal files and irreplaceable software. Spreadsheets with financial records not easily available from other sources, legal documents, work-in-progress... the list is large.
The list can go on and on, but the backup doesn't need to.
The easiest way to do backups is to use the backup software that comes with the operating system. Windows has a free, usable backup program while similar ones are available for Mac, Linux and others. The software is easy to use and backing up is a simple matter of selecting which folders to backup. It even has a scheduler so backups can be automated to occur at convenient times.
If you want something a little more powerful, there are a number of backup program you can purchase. These programs offer features such as only backing up files that have changed since the last backup, or those that have changed since a particular date.
Some files are a little tougher to backup, such as email. Some email software stores the messages on the server instead of on your computer. In those cases, you can usually save the messages into a file on your computer that can then be backed up.
Backups can be done to any kind of removable media - writeable CD's/DVD's, removable hard drives or even the newer 'keychain' devices that plug into a USB port. Even floppy disks can still be used in many cases. Documents often take a small amount of space. Just set aside 7 disks and rotate them from week to week.
Running a daily backup may seem like one more thing to accomplish in your already busy day, but the first time you lose a file that you need and don't have saved, you're going to wish you made the time.
About the Author, Paul Wilcox: