This article was first published on 2007-07-17. Due to the age of this article, it is included here for archive purposes only.
You’ve amassed a few gigabytes of carefully catalogued music, irreplaceable photos, work and personal documents as well as other important digital wares. You’re happily surfing along when all of a sudden your computer freezes and sounds like a parade of ping-pong balls.
Oh. No. The telltale sign of a hard-drive failure.
No worries though. You have your backup. “My what?!”, you say.
Very few people backup their data consistently. Yet many experience crushing losses. More and more our computers are archives of our lives. Think about it – a hard drive failure nowadays is similar to a house fire when it comes to certain things.
Apple has a new feature in its next operating system, “Leopard”, which will automatically backup your data on the fly. But you can’t afford to wait until it’s released in October. And even when it is – it may not meet your needs. Fortunately, there are some alternatives.
There are two things to consider when planning your backup strategy – Method and Location.
Method – how you backup.
|Manual||It’s better than nothing.||If you forget to do it, you’re not protected.||Not the best option, but might be the simplest.|
|Automated||Once it’s setup, you let it go. You don’t need to remember to do it.||More involved to setup, may require some expense.||Definitely the best option for the best protection.|
Location – where you put your backups.
|External Hard Drive||Inexpensive – you can pick up a 250GB drive for less than $150.||External Hard Drives Fail too; if you lose your computer to a disaster, you’ll like lose the hard drive if it’s in the same area.||Your best bet if you have many gigabytes of data, limited budget, and limited patience.|
|Writeable Media (CD’s/DVD’s)||Longevity – while CD’s & DVD’s will eventually wear out, they will generally last longer than hard drives.||Tedious & Expensive – CD’s only hold about 800MB of data and DVD’s about 5GB of data. You’ll need a lot of CD’s/DVD’s to back up a large drive.||Not really a practical option if you have more than few gigs of data to backup. Great for periodic backups of small amounts of data.|
|Online||Access your backup from anywhere, much less risk of natural disaster, unlimited storage.||SLOW upload speeds from most connections.||A good option if you have patience and want that extra protection.|
To do a manual backup, you basically drag & drop what you want to back up into your back up location. While that’s better than nothing, you’ve got to remember to do it frequently or its value is diminished. I recommend dating your backup in the file or folder name so you can keep track of when you backed up last.
For automated backups, you can use a program to setup what you want to backup & where. Once it’s set up, you leave it to do its work.
For those that are budget-minded, the drag & drop method is probably easiest and least expensive. But there are ways to take advantage of the power of Automator and AppleScript to create automated backups without spending a dime. Do an internet search and you’ll come up with a handful of scripts that will automate your backups at no cost such as Backup Folder at Apple.com.
If you’re looking for more power and control, probably the most popular program for automated backups out there is Retrospect. For corporations, you’ll want the full program. For individuals, Retrospect Express is probably sufficient. Both are extremely powerful and give you a wide range of options for backup. They will set you back a few bucks, although the Express version is sometimes given away with external hard drive purchases. The software is a bit more cumbersome to set up, but once it is, you’re set.
For .Mac members, you get a program for backing up which is called – wait for it – “Backup”. You can select files and folders to back up to your .Mac account, external drives or even CD’s/DVD’s. Simply select what, where & when you want to backup and let it go. Be aware that for the basic cost of .Mac ($99USD) you get 2GB of online storage. If you want to back up more than that, you’ll need to buy more. If you’re backing up to an external drive or CD’s/DVD’s there are no restrictions.
If you like the flexibility and protection of online backup, Mozy.com is a great option. Mozy gives you 2GB of storage space for free. If you need more, you pay just $4.95 a month for unlimited secure storage. That’s not much when compared to the cost of an external drive. They give you a free application to manage your backups.
Mozy is just one of many online backup solutions out there. However, that high-speed connection you have is likely only one-way. Upload speeds for cable modems and DSL are SIGNIFICANTLY slower than download. 2GB of data could take many hours to upload. A 250GB drive would take DAYS.
Of course you could mix & match these strategies – use iTunes and iPhoto to burn your music & photos backup on CD’s or DVD’s, important documents online and everything else on an external drive. It’s up to you.
Regardless of your choices, it’s critical that backing up your data is a regular part of your computing habits. You won’t regret the time or expense to backup the irreplaceable data sitting right now on your Mac. Now is a great time to commit to your backup plan.
Good luck, and be sure to backup your data regularly!!
Did this article help you decide how you should back up your data? Do you have any disaster tips from your experience? Let us know in the Comments section below!