Don’t Lose Your Important Files

Recently one of my customers experienced a serious hardware problem on her computer. The motherboard went out, and her computer would no longer even boot up. If you aren’t sure what a motherboard is, don’t feel bad; normally you would never see it or have to deal with it in any way. It’s the main circuit board in a computer. Without a motherboard, you don’t even have a computer. That’s bad, but it could have been worse. It could have been the hard drive. That’s where all of your computer’s programs and data are stored. She had thousands of digital photographs and dozens of home videos stored on her computer. If her hard drive had gone out, those memories would have been lost or could have cost a lot of money and time to recover.

What do you store on your computer? Photographs? Music? Financial data? The manuscript for your latest novel? Your child’s homework? Whatever it is, it’s probably important to you!

The key to making sure that you don’t lose important files is making backups. If you have a backup copy of all the financial data and personal files on your computer, you don’t have to worry about losing them all to a single hardware failure. There are numerous options available for backup up your files with prices ranging from hundreds of thousands of dollars to less than fifty dollars.

  1. Large networks – If you have a large network with many servers and workstations, you should consider a network area storage (NAS) or tape backup system with a robotic tape library. It can be configured to automatically back up all of your servers and even your workstations if you want it to. Every night, outside of normal business hours, it can make copies of every file that changed during the previous day. Once each week, it can make a full backup of all files, whether they changed or not. For greater speed, you can run backups to a NAS and then copy those files to a tape that you can send off-site. Regardless of what scheme you use, you should send a weekly backup off-site to ensure its security. There are companies that specialize in storing data backups in high-security, environmentally controlled facilities.
  2. Small to medium businesses – If you have a few servers and a few dozen workstations, a network area storage or tape backup system will work for you as well, although you probably wouldn’t want to spend as much. To save money, you could use a single tape drive or a set of removable hard drives and change them out manually. There are smaller-scale NAS products designed specifically for small to medium businesses. It’s still important to keep your backups off-site, though, even if it’s only in a safe at the owner’s or manager’s house.
  3. Small businesses and home networks – If you only have a handful of computers, there’s no reason to spend thousands of dollars on a complicated backup system. You can accomplish the same thing by running a low-cost backup application such as BackupAssist to automatically copy important files from all of your workstations onto a large capacity external hard drive. You should have more than one drive so you can swap them out weekly, keeping one constantly plugged in and one in a secure location off-site.
  4. Stand-alone computers – If you only want to backup a single computer in your home or small office, the simplest solution is to use an external hard drive or flash drive. Many of these drives come with easy-to-configure backup software already on them. A 16 gigabyte flash drive—enough space to hold most home user’s important files if you exclude music, photographs, and other media—can be had for under $40.*

If you already have a backup system in place, I’d really love to hear how it’s working for you. Let me know what you are using and whether you love it or hate it and why.


*External hard drives don’t cost much more than a flash drive and hold a lot more data! If you don’t have to keep your backups on your keychain or in your pocket, I recommend going with a 500 GB or larger hard drive rather than a 16 GB or 32 GB flash drive.

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