We live our lives on our computers. Family photos, tax
information, school projects, and many other aspects of our lives are all
stored on our hard drives. If your hard drive crashes, the loss of this data
can be devastating, but it doesn’t have to be.
Having a backup can save you a lot of heart ache and stress.
However, a single backup isn’t enough. Among technicians, you may hear the
expression, “If it doesn’t exist in three places, it doesn’t exist.” The three
places being referred to are the working data, an on-site backup, and an
So what does that mean?
Working data are the files that you are using. It is stored on your hard drive and ready to
be pulled up at any time. Ideally, this data will be stored on a separate partition
from your operating system so that you don’t have to work too hard to protect
the data if you have to reinstall.
An on-site backup is a backup on external media such as a
USB hard drive or DVDs. Many external hard drives include a backup manager that
will automate your backup, saving changes on a regular schedule. Alternately,
most operating systems have a backup manager built in. In Windows 7 you can use
“Backup and Restore”, found in the maintenance folder of your start menu.
An off-site backup is, as the name implies, a backup that is
stored somewhere other than the location of the working data. This is important
in case something happens to the location where the working data and on-site
backup such as a flood, fire, or theft. Large businesses often use off site
backup services such as Iron Mountain, but for a small business or home user,
the cost is prohibitive and unnecessary. Instead, you can use an online backup
service such as Mozy, CrashPlan, or Carbonite. These solutions run in the
background and automatically backup your data online. However, they are best as
a secondary storage solution as they take a significant amount of time to
backup and to restore.