Data backup is all about making sure you don’t lose stuff if you have a disaster.
The question is, what kind of disaster?
Sure, your computer might just go “pop” and smoke a little, but it might also go “ka-boom” and smoke a LOT. Like this one:
When it comes to backup, you have to ask yourself exactly what you’re trying to achieve. If you just want to handle to occasional lost file, or Windows crash then actually maybe you don’t need to do anything.
Modern operating systems and applications are much better at dealing with this sort of stuff. For example, you’ve probably noticed that newer versions of Microsoft Word can restore “lost” files, so if your computer crashes and you forgot to save, you might be OK.
Similarly, most modern operating systems use a Recycle Bin, so when you delete files, they’re not immediately gone.
Geeks can even sometimes restore “really” deleted files using special software, and if you’re really serious you can send corrupted hard drives to companies who will try and read the data from them (it’s expensive, mind).
So why bother backing up?
Unfortunately, it’s very much like home insurance. You might go through a lifetime without having a major fire or flood, but that doesn’t mean you won’t buy house insurance (right?). So to me, data backup is the same: it’s the 1 in 100 event; the small percentage of us that have a major disaster such as fire, flood or theft. If your backup strategy doesn’t account for this, then what’s the point?
In the business we talk about “off-site” backups. What this means is making sure that a copy of your data exists away from the place of business. The same principle should apply to home users as well.
In the past (and still present in some cases!), the solution to this was to physically move your backups (which might be on magnetic tape or removable hard drives) to a second location. For example, you’d have someone responsible for taking home the backup tapes at the end of the week.
Of course this requires a lot of diligence, and also, well, a guy to carry tapes around, so is completely inappropriate for use in the home or small businesses.
A more recent solution to this has been “online backup”. With this, your files are delivered over the internet to a third party company, who looks after them for you. You rely on the company to store the files for you, and let you download them when you need them.
Usually you run some software on your PC to manage the backups (BuddyBackup fits into this category), but sometimes it might be a done via a website.
The nice thing about online backup is that it’s much less effort: you’re using the internet for delivery so there is no messing about physically moving stuff. Also, (depending on the quality of the software running on your PC), it can be easier to setup and run.
It’s also often the only viable “online”/”off-site” option home or small office users.
So, when you think about backup, think about what exactly you’re trying to protect against. In this internet age, there are plenty of options for off-site backup that is actually going to survive a real disaster.
BuddyBackup gives you off-site backups for free by saving your files encrypted onto your buddies’ computers.