The best ways to back up your home computer

Posted by Nikoletta Ventseslavova

Read if: you don’t want to lose precious information from your computer; learn the best way to backup your data

Save: time and hassle

Here is a short list of reasons you should back up your data: Fire, flood or thunderbolt, hard drive failure, accidental erasures, hacker attack, or a lost or stolen laptop.

By data, I mean things like irreplaceable photos, videos, or important documents. A week ago, while I was working, suddenly my laptop’s charger and battery burnt out. I took my PC to the repair shop and I forgot about the problem. But, while a defective processor or burnt recharger may be an unwanted hassle we can fix, by definition there’s no replacing irreplaceable data.

According to Microsoft all hard drives will crash – It is just a question of when. The average life expectancy of a hard drive is about 5 years. Thus, they recommend that we make regular backups of the files we cannot afford to lose, located on two separate physical media, or on a physical media and on a online backup service. Below we are going to take a close look at the most recommended backup solutions.

External memory and additional hard drives:

PCWorld experts say: “Your backup should be physically separated from your computer. A backup that will be robbed or destroyed along with the rest of the computer is not a secure backup.”

These days CDs and DVDs are too small to cope with the large amounts of personal data kept on hard drives, so let’s examine the alternatives:

The simplest is the USB flash drive. Installation and operation is plug and play: USB 2.0 is the most common one, but it is a bit slow, maxing out at 480 Mpbs for a bulk transfer. USB 3.0 has data transfer capacity 10 times faster at 5Gbps. Another option is the eSATA interface, which transfers data up to 6.0 Gbps, but requires an extra card in the computer, such as an ExpressCard slot. In case you need to back up multiple computers, then NAS (network attached storage) is a good choice. NASes are more flexible than single external drives and come with media sharing features. [ed. I have one of these. Wonderful toy!] They are small, low-power computers with lots of storage that connect to a router; they are accessible over your home network. They vary in storage size, writing speed and cost (starting at $120 for 1 TB).

It is not a good idea to rely on a single hard drive, because failures happen. You need at least two disks to back up your data. Thus if you choose NAS, you may consider getting one which supports RAID mirroring: if disk A fails, all data is still stored on diskB.

On-line back up
We can set up automated backups with external drives if we are able to develop a” backup habit”. In other words, with this variant we have to remember always to plug in the drive at the right time, or keep it plugged in all the time, which means our backup is not physically separated from our PC. In these days of “cloud computing” it may be better to take the advantage of online backup. The modern online backup services allow users to upload their files to off-site server locations. Two of the largest backup suppliers offer unlimited storage plans with annual fees: Carbonite – $59 a year and IDrive -$49.99 a year. The plans limit users to a single PC at those prices and limit the amount of storage on the covered computer’s hard disk. Users can choose between different online backup services like:

Online Backup Service Price Free Plan
Carbonite $59/year/1 PC 15-day trial
CrashPlan $50/yr/1 PC unlimited 30 day, and free local, friend
IDrive $49.50/year/150GB/1 PC 5GB free account
MiMedia $99/year/100GB/Unlimited PCs 7GB free account
MozyHome $5.99/month/50GB/1 PC 2GB free account
Norton Online Backup $50/25GB/5 PCs 30-day 5GB trial
SOS Online Backup $79.95/year/5 PCs 14-day trial

As you can see, those services offer subscription plans for more than one computer and some of them store data up to 7GB for free. The online backup services also have mobile applications for tablets and smart phones. For example, SOS Online Backup offers the ability to send links to file downloads to your contacts, while IDrive offers a separate Iphone application that lets us back up our contacts and photos for free. For those interested in backing up entire folders, MiMedia is the perfect fit. It lets users designate folders on multiple systems that get automatically updated when any file is modified. The most interesting feature comes from CrashPlan, which lets users specify another computer as an online backup target, saving money on server storage.

The best place to store important data, according to the reviewers of PCmag is SOS Online Backup, as it offers: multiple PC coverage, external and network drive backup, a local backup application and an excellent iPhone application. However, it does not offer a Mac or Linux version. In comparision, Norton Online Backup works with Macs and saves numerous file versions for 90 days. However, it does not back up files immediately after they are modified.

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