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Data backup, even though critical, is almost totally ignored by a large percentage of computer users. Computers work so well today that people often assume that nothing can go wrong. This is complete folly. Computers do have problems no matter who makes them. Hard drives, the repository for all that valuable data, do go bad and destroy data in the process.
Most people who use computers have some irreplaceable data. I have over ten years of accounting records for my business in my computer. Losing this alone would be a disaster, not to speak of my web sites and all my other business files.
In my years of working with computers I had two hard drives fail. The first time was a disaster and everything was lost except for my accounting records that were backed up on a floppy disk. I learned my lesson and I was able to recover from the second crash without difficulty.
I cringe when I walk into a business office and find a computer with years of valuable data and no backup. This is not just a problem with individuals and small businesses. Even large corporations become lax with backups and find themselves in a serious crisis because of it.
There is no reason to lose valuable data. Backup is not that complex, costly or time consuming. It is available to anyone who can afford a computer. Actually, for the most part, most computers come with a backup tool already installed. The floppy drive is very limited in capacity but it can serve as a good backup tool if properly used.
Full Backup is one of two basic schools of thought in Backup. It can involve the use of a hard drive partition, a tape backup unit, an online backup service or some other backup unit. Full backup means that everything on your hard drive is backed up and can be restored later if something happens to your hard drive.
For those that like the full backup method, I recommend using a second hard drive and software like Drive Image that creates a duplicate image of your hard drive on the second drive. I would avoid using a partition on your existing hard drive because, if your hard drive goes bad, a backup partition may be useless. If it is on a separate drive it will be available even if your hard drive is destroyed. The disadvantage of using an internal hard drive is that your media is not secure from a disaster that destroys your equipment.
Some people like tape drives because of their large capacity and ease of use. Some tape drives work well for full restores but are not good tools for access to specific files. Online backup is the process of uploading your data to an Internet company specializing in backup. The advantage of this is that your files are off property and safe assuming that the company is responsible and takes good care of your data.
You can also do full backups with limited capacity drives like the Zip or LS 120 units but it takes a lot of costly media and the time to continue feeding that media during a full backup. You can also use CD and DVD media that holds a great deal more data.
Data Backup is the second school of thought on backup. Here only the data is backed up. The operating system and the applications can always be reinstalled with the original disks. It is time consuming but can also be advantageous. The advantage is that you will be getting a completely clean system after a crash. Computer systems accumulate little glitches and problems as they are used over the years. With full backups you are saving all those glitches and they will just be placed back on your computer. With a clean reinstall of your software, all those glitches will be discarded and you get a fresh start. I have a friend who dumps everything out of his computer once a year and reinstalls clean. He says that this keeps his computer running smoothly. I’m not recommending that but it doesn’t have to be a totally negative thing if a complete crash occurs.
Your data is the important thing and I recommend two ways to back it up. One is the floppy drive that is already on your computer. The floppy drive has two major advantages. The first is that it is already there and no additional purchase is necessary. The second is that the media is inexpensive. The disadvantages are that it is slow compared to other drives and the capacity is very limited. It does work great for some things. For example, I keep a floppy disk backup of my accounting data. It fits easily on one floppy and I can take it with me when I leave home. Always make two floppy copies because floppy disks are vulnerable.
My favorite tool for data backup is the Zip drive. This tool has become so popular that there are over twenty million of them in use now. Each Zip disk holds 100 megabytes of data compared to a floppy disk that holds only 1.44 megabytes. My preference is to keep one zip disk for all my word processing files and one for all my other data. I also keep one for my web site and all related information and files. I have been using Zip drives for years and both of the desktop computers in my home office have Zip drives. Besides that, I have a USB 250 megabyte Zip drive for my laptop. This portable Zip drive has saved the day many times.
Now, Iomega, Zip’s manufacturer, has created a Zip drive that uses 750 megabyte disks. These disks have more capacity than a full CD-R or CD-RW.