Plan how to Backup your system

August 27, 2009

Survey your backup needs, and think about what you have that is ‘live’ data, your ongoing, working library of files, versus what is archival data, files that don’t require changes or additions. Live data might include your collection of digital music and your business documents, while archival data might include your digital photos from the past five years. Think about whether you want all of your data to reside in a single place, or whether you want to spread your backups across multiple devices. Also consider your habits: Do you need prompting to back up, or do you want to invoke a backup at will?

Having evaluated your files and needs, you can better decide on a backup strategy, and on which combination of technologies makes sense for you. You’ll likely settle on a strategy that encompasses various devices and services, selected from among USB flash drives, external hard drives, network-attached storage, and online backup.

Many hardware devices now include a backup utility as a matter of course; but whether you’ll find that backup utility (be it a separate application or one that’s integrated with the drive) useful will depend in part on the backup approach you’ve chosen. Do you want to back up all of your files? Or are you aiming to do larger, more-current sets while leaving the file archive to reside on a NAS or on a dedicated 1TB hard drive attached to your system?

Various software programs, including traditional backup programs such as NovaStor NovaBackup Professional, EMC Retrospect Backup, and NTI Backup 5 Advanced, will find specific file types on your hard drive and back up those file types per your instructions. But it helps to devise an organised structure for the files on your hard drive; that way, you know exactly where to begin when you establish a backup routine in the aforementioned software, or if you ever do a quick-and-dirty manual backup (in which you simply drag and drop files from one drive to another within Windows Explorer).

Rebit Disk Drive Backup is even simpler to use. Just plug in the drive, give the built-in software permission to back up, and off it goes, continually protecting you in the background. By the end of January, the drive’s software will get an update that supports managing backups for up to six PCs to a single drive (a good setup for people backing up smaller sets of data, but not for users who have multiple PCs packed with multimedia collections). The company also now offers its easy-to-use software on CD, for use with any external hard drive.

Memeo’s Autobackup software and NTI’s Shadow are competing stand-alone applications that you can buy for real-time file backup; they can require more intervention on your part, however, than either Clickfree (which is not real-time backup) or Rebit (which is real-time, much like the Apple Time Capsule for Mac OS computers).

USB flash drives are ubiquitous, but nowadays 4GB is a baseline
capacity, not the high end. And larger capacities, 16GB or 32GB and
greater, are becoming more commonplace.

The benefits to
using a flash drive can be multifold. You can store your files, perhaps
both your critical documents and your multimedia files, on a drive the
size of your index finger and you can keep your data close to you, in
your pocket or on a keychain. Many drives offer software encryption and
password protection; still more include a file-synchronization utility.
The SanDisk Cruzer Titanium Plus goes one step further by letting you sync the drive with Web-based storage.

SanDisk is going all out, however, with its newest offering,
the SanDisk UltraBackup USB Flash Drive. The drive is expected in
April, in capacities of 8GB to 64GB. It has a retractable USB connector
that slides inside, so you needn’t worry about caps (or cables, as you
would with an external hard drive). The integrated software requires no
installation; instead, it just asks you for the file types you want to
back up, and it initiates a backup when you plug the drive in; a button
on the unit lets you launch a backup, too.

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