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How do I backup my PC?

Computers have become so pervasive in our society that just about everybody uses them in some way or another. Electronic communication keeps family members in touch with each other across continents. Businesses use email, web conferences, and VoIP (internet telephony) to streamline their trading activities. Shoppers use the Internet to find bargains. This electronic lifestyle generates a constant stream of data. As one might expect there will be very negative consequences if this data is lost due to a crash, computer virus, or physical loss of your computer through fire or theft. Everything on your computer - from financial records to family digital photographs - is vulnerable to loss.

Backup data

Avoiding catastrophic loss of data is easier than you might imagine. For personal users a backup solution often involves burning data to a CD or DVD disc. Optical discs are relatively slow but are inexpensive compared to other backup media. The CD-ROM format supports raw storage capacities from 540 to 640 MB. The DVD (digital versatile disc) format supports disc formats from 4.7 GB to 17 GB. Both of these formats come in a "write-once" (data cannot be deleted or changed) or a "read-write" format which allows the user to rewrite the data on the disc. Optical discs are often seen as unreliable for long-term backup use.

Remote data backup

Remote data backup is a strong alternative for consumers and businesses alike. This obviates the need to purchase backup media (like tapes or discs) or the equipment needed to perform the backup (like tape drives or CD/DVD burners). An online backup service allows the user to stream their data to a remote server and allow a specialized company to take care of their data. Usually the company will have redundant storage (for example RAID servers) so that your data is kept safe and secure.

There are several benefits to using an online backup solution:

  • Your data are accessible from anywhere in the world. You don't need to carry hundreds of discs around with you.
  • Because your data are kept away from your business premises they are kept safe from fire or theft that might occur. It is pointless keeping a backup if a fire destroys your computers *and* your backups!
  • The provider of the online backup will be a data storage specialist meaning that they will have expert staff and industrial standard equipment that you simply could not afford yourself
  • Online data backup solutions are portable between computers. If your computer is lost you can still access your data from another computer. You don't need to go and purchase new tape drives or equipment before you can access your data.

Risk management

A truism of risk management is that invariably it is cheaper to effectively manage risk than it is to face the expensive option of repairing damage after an accident. Even if an online data backup might seem expensive, consider how expensive it will be for your business if all of your financial records need to be recaptured manually? How expensive will it be to lose all of your client information? Any business that uses computers needs to face up to the fact that they are vulnerable to data loss. This risk needs to be managed.