I’m prompted to get up on one of my favorite soapboxes and remind you all to BACK YOUR STUFF UP!! Just do it…right now. No excuses!
One of my sisters has a hard drive in her computer that is “making weird noises”. She’s lucky, she got a warning. She’s scrambling now to get her important photos and other files backed up before the hard drive completely fails. I honestly hope she makes it. I love her photos of my nieces and nephew.
If you have no other reason, do it for the children.
If you’re like me you have a computer somewhere in your life that has a load of your digital photos on it. And if you’re like way too many people out there, that’s the only copy you have of those photos (and other important files). The simple fact is that hard drives are just not reliable. They crash and fail…often. Other bad things happen too. Computers can be stolen and sometimes natural disasters happen. In case of fire, don’t expect your computer to survive.
The answer is to back them up. And the key to backing up is that you have to get things setup so that backup just happens and you don’t have to think about it anymore. Any backup system that relies on you periodically doing something like inserting disks or connecting something and running something WILL NOT WORK. You’re human. For this task you are more unreliable than the hard drive. You just won’t do it. You have to set something up that just happens automagically without you ever touching it again. Here’s my good, better, and best solutions for backup.
Buy an external hard drive and use backup software to backup your files onto that hard drive. You can get external drives at Best Buy or Amazon. My sister just got a 1-terabyte drive for $130. If you’re using Windows XP I’d suggest using the backup software that usually comes with such drives. Windows Vista and Windows 7 users I recommend using the built-in backup software that comes with the operating system. (Sidenote: Actually Windows Vista users drop everything and go buy the Windows 7 upgrade for your computer right now…I’ll wait…please do your part to eradicate Windows Vista from the planet…now.) Mac users make sure you’re running Leopard or Snow Leopard and use Time Machine.
The key as I mentioned before is to set things up so that they happen automatically. Make sure that drive is connected to that computer constantly or at least regularly and that the software is scheduled to automatically backup your files regularly.
This provides protection against your hard drive failing. However, it does not protect you from natural disasters, theft or fire.
Use an online backup service to backup your files to the Internet. This used to be outrageously expensive and the software involved was lame and unreliable. That is no longer the case. I use a service which I highly recommend, BackBlaze, and there are others. (Note: you need a good broadband Internet connection to use one of these services). For $5 a month they will backup as much of your hard drive as you want. I currently backup about 700 gigabytes of photos, music, movies and files with them. The software is easy to install and once you get it setup you just forget about it. It just sits there and keeps your computer backed up. If my apartment burned to the ground tomorrow, all of my important digital files are safe on BackBlaze.
Do both. Two backups is always better than one. Because, get this, hard drives fail. Even external hard drives that you connect to your computer and hard drives at big Internet facilities fail. Also, while the online backup is great for disaster cases, it is slow. Its slow to upload and slow to download or you wait for them to ship your files to you. The local external hard drive is way faster, but it won’t survive a disaster. So do both.
Better than Best (for Windows users)
Sorry, here comes another soapbox. If you want to solve the “backup problem” in the utterly best way possible, then you have to get a Mac. The Mac has the best backup solution on the planet called Time Machine. Windows simply has no equivalent. I can give you all sorts of reasons to switch to Mac, but Time Machine is reason #1. Also, rather than doing the external hard drive thing (not very automagical if you’re a laptop user) then I recommend you look at Time Capsule, essentially a wireless external hard drive and more. I have one and love it.
Here’s what I run. I have two Macs in my home and I back both up to one Time Capsule using Time Machine and I use BackBlaze ($10/month for two computers) to back everything up to the Internet. And it all runs automatically. I don’t have to do anything. It just works.
So to reiterate. I don’t care what type of computer or operating system you have, just BACK YOUR STUFF UP!! These solutions are cheaper than they’ve ever been in history. No excuses.
And if you intend for your backups to actually work, then make sure they are hands-free and automagical or they will fail.
If you are just overwhelmed by all of this just let me know. I’m happy to answer questions and help. I cry a little tear every time I hear about another lost digital photo collection. Seriously, avoid the tears and ask for help if you need it. Just remember…BACK YOUR STUFF UP!!
Ok stepping down from the soapbox. You are now free to continue wandering around the web.