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RS Tip 4: Backing up

Over the weekend my laptop broke. These days much of our lives depend on our computers. Business, social communication and entertainment are now all served up on a digital platform and we tend, foolishly, to put all our documents, data, pictures, music, video, mail, chat, contacts so much of our lives in one digital basket. Laptops and even desktops are perceived as high value products (Even when they're old and slow) and are often the target of theft. they are also highly sensitive electronic devices and can easily be damaged by power surges or outages.
This said - It's important to make backups!

Making Backups

There are many different options and services when choosing how to back up your data:
You can manually copy files you want to back up to external media (USB hard drive, flash disk, CD or DVD)
You can sign up for free (or paid) online storage and manually upload your important files to them.
You can sign up with an online backup provider like www.mozy.com who manage the whole procedure for you.

In order to be a backup, it has to be an ADDITIONAL copy saved in a DIFFERENT LOCATION. you need to know that these copies are independent of each other. For example, copying files from your documents folder to your D drive is not a proper backup, your PC breaks or is stolen, you loose both copies. Saving a second copy to a flash disk is better, but not if you keep your flash disk in the same bag as your laptop. If it's stolen, you loose both copies.

My personal favorite is the online solution. There are many providers, I chose Mozy because of their price and service.

There are a two important things to consider before choosing a backup method:
How big is my important data?
The speed and pricing of your internet connection.

If you have cheap bandwidth (lots of megs for little bucks) then backing up online is an option. If you use 3G or another expensive access account then you're probably not going to want to backup online unless you have very little data to back up (a few documents, not images or music)
The nice thing about having your stuff backed up online is that you can access it from anywhere you have an internet connection. So even if you don't need to "restore" a file, you can still download it wherever you are in the world. It's also automated, so your files are always backed up, you don't need to remember (I am the type who forgets) to continually check and see that you have an up-to-date copy on your hard drive or flash disk.
The drawback of backing up online is that it can take a long time to upload big files, and you usually need to pay the monthly subscription (usually by credit card) to your backup provider.

I've sent my laptop in for repair, but despite this, Monday morning when I walked into the office I borrowed an old mac that was unused in another department, I'm not a fan of mac, I am dreading the days till I get my laptop back, but I was able to quickly download the files I was busy working on from mozy, and within a half an hour I was back up and running on the loaned mac.

If they aren't able to repair my laptop, or they loose it, or some other tragedy transpires, I am confident that after insurance pays out I'll get a new one, and after downloading ALL my files from the backup guys (it'll probably take a few days to download everything) Everything will be back to normal. And until then, I have access to any of the files on my laptop that I need.

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