Data Backups

February 18, 2012


Think of a time in your past when you lost something valuable, something you thought you could never live without. Perhaps an heirloom, a wedding ring, or a picture of bigfoot, whatever it may be. Recall how depressed you were at the thought you will never get it back. Then one day, out of the blue, you got it back. Things started looking bright again and you made sure to be doubly careful that it never happened again.

You may not have given it some thought but what if what you lost is data on your computer, smartphone or digital camera. Your collection of photos, videos, music, documents, project files, emails, passwords and so on, all gone. How devastated will you be if that happened? For many of us it can be devastating. Yes, it is not the end of the world, but you will no doubt feel the pain. It is like losing a part of yourself. These accumulated data become part of your life history in a way, a chronicle of what you have done and where you have been, if you will. We make connections with others by sharing as well, in this age of instant information. For all of that data to vanish into thin air is like losing your identity. Perhaps the reason many have never given it much thought is because these data exist in the digital realm or in virtual space and just seem intangible. Perhaps it is because it is digital and not something you will find in a lost and found basket.

As our lives become increasingly intertwined with computers to accomplish our daily routines the more of our lives will reside in them. Everything stored as digital files, neatly organized in digital folders. The paper trails we have accumulated throughout the years shrink as we progressively digitize every bit of it into our computers. This underscores the importance of backing up these data files. You do not want to be caught empty-handed.

Whether by theft, deletion error, or hardware failure our data is vulnerable and can vanish in a flash. As reliable computers and smartphones are they all will fail one way or another and this could mean losing your treasured data. Retrieving them can be difficult and at times impossible. It is unfortunate that many will be unaware of this fact until it happens to them.

Several years ago my computer harddrive failed for no apparent reason with half its storage capacity seeemingly gone who knows where. My data gone for good. Most were family pictures which I treasured the most. Since they were taken with a digital camera there was no film to simply print out a new set. Needless to say I was sad as can be.

A hardware failure can occur at anytime. I could have avoided all the heartache had I backed up my data. I can not stress enough the importance of routine backups of your data to a secondary harddrive or DVDs. You can get inexpensive external harddrives that makes backing up as easy as drag-and-drop. Make a habit of doing them every few weeks or sooner if you do a lot of computer work. If something catastrophic should occur then you are only behind a few weeks as opposed to years. Online storage is another option to backup your data to. There are numerous companies that offer free online storage as well as pay service; Microsoft's Windows Live SkyDrive, just to name one. One advantage to online storage is your data is physically stored at a different locale. The risk of permanently losing data due to a house fire, for example, is greatly reduced if not eliminated. The more redundancy the better your chance of recovery. Even backups can fail sometimes. Another advantage is that you can access your data anywhere you have internet access. My only concern with online storage is that you depend on someone else to maintain the servers and to keep your data safe from hackers. Stick with well known companies like Google or Microsoft.

In the next section I will talk about the data recovery in the unfortunate scenario in which you do not have a backup.


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