So it’s about freaking time I get back to Techie Tuesday. Next week I plan to write on MF and how to read a semen analysis report, but this will take more research than my addled brain is prepared for. So instead, I give you a computer Techie Tuesday post. For those visiting from ICLW…WELCOME! To learn more about me and my journey, I recommend reading these posts:
I am a major computer geek. Some people say this, but they are mere posers. I have been an Information Technology professional for over 18 years. I can build a computer from a pile of parts and chips and boards - install operating systems, software, update and configure the BIOS, etc. I have installed and troubleshot many operating systems Windows 95/98/NT/ME/XP/Vista, Mac OS 7-OSX, SGI Unix (IRIX), Linux. I was the person you called on a tech support line for years (I ran the tech support and repair service department of a $50 million computer hardware company when I was 24 years old). I have purchased, installed and troubleshot hundreds of computers as an IT professional and manager. OK. Computer Geek = established. Right?
The importance of backing up data
There is one thing in computers that is an absolute guarantee.
ALL hard drives will fail. All of them. 100% of them. They are mechanical devices with lots of tiny parts whirring around at 7200 RPM. These parts eventually wear down. It may not happen today or tomorrow but eventually it will happen and if you don’t back up your data you are guaranteed to lose all your data. Most hard drives have warranties of 3-5 years. Yeah, yeah you know this, but hey take a second and THINK about that for a moment. How old is your computer? All downloaded email, all letters and documents, all spreadsheets, all contact info you keep on the hard drive. Maybe a big deal, maybe not, but you will also lose ALL OF YOUR DIGITAL PHOTOGRAPHS. That’s right. If you have one of the new-fangled digital cameras, you probably download the images to a place on your hard drive. When (not if) you lose your hard drive these photos will be GONE FOREVER unless they are backed up. Are you willing to lose these documents? Are you willing to lose these photos? I especially want to stress this to folks who had a baby recently. I have read stories of people who have lost all photos from the first years from their baby’s life never to be seen again. My heart sinks every time I read this. I feel sick. Backing up data is not hard, but it does take a small amount of effort on your part. Once you have done it one time, you’ll realize that the inconvenience is minor but the benefit is enormous. Here are a few options to consider:
Option 1: Buy an external USB hard drive and use it as a backup
Lots of people do this. It is a common and quick way to back up. You can either purchase a fancy backup program (or use Time Machine on Mac OSX) or just drag and drop the files onto the backup hard disk. Advantages: relatively cheap (you can get a good drive with a very large capacity for under $100), easy to use. Disadvantages: Backup data can be accidentally deleted or altered. It is still a hard drive and will still fail one day, so you need to make sure that this is an additional copy of your data not the ONLY copy. Also these drives are typically kept in the same location as the computer so if you have a fire, earthquake, hurricane, tornado, flood (water damage in the basement computer room, etc) you may end up losing both your original and backup copy of data.
Option 2: Use CD-R/W or DVD-R/W media to back up files
This is a good option for people who don’t have vast quantities (more than 50GB) of data to back up. The media is cheap, it is easy to use and you can even make multiple copies. Advantages: Very cheap (4.7 GB of media backup on a DVD-R/W cost about 40 cents when you buy a 25 pack or greater). Media is estimated to be viable for approximately 20 years. Data on disc is static and can’t easily be deleted or altered. Multiple copies of discs can be made and one copy stored off-site in case of fire, earthquake, hurricane, tornado, flood (you could save the extra copy at your Mom’s house 3 states away, or in a safety deposit box at the bank). Disadvantages: Need a CD or DVD burner (most modern computers already have these installed). CDs can be burned using drag and drop from Windows XP, but burning DVDs may require 3rd party software, like Nero or Roxio (Windows Vista has DVD burning built into the OS). Improperly stored discs can be damaged (don’t just leave them laying around unprotected. Get a disc wallet or a hard case). Data backup must be broken into smaller chunks (700MB for CD, 4.7GB for DVD). A small amount of organization is necessary to find on which disc your data is located (print a copy of the contents or label the disc with a sharpie).
There are other options like backup DAT/DLT tapes that I won’t go into. Those options require expensive drives and expertise typical to IT professionals. Backing up up to a USB chip may seem like a good option that is similar to #1 if you don’t have a lot of files. I don’t use these as permanent backup devices. I use them as transport devices. They are too small and easily lost for my taste. I don’t recommend services that backup your data via the internet. It’s a nice idea, but I don’t feel you have the control you need and the upload can be painfully slow.
All this computer nerd talky-speak is making my head spin. Cut to the chase!
So here’s what I do. I own an external USB hard drive (500GB for $89) to back up my files quickly. I needed a big drive because I have a lot of RAW format Nikon files that take up a ton of space. Any time I add new photos, finish a project or have new important files, I make a copy on the external hard drive (it’s as easy as drag & drop/copy & paste). I disconnect and don’t use my external backup drive every day to keep down the wear and tear on the motor and read/write heads. I know that I am covered for most typical crashes and emergencies. 2-3 times per year I get off my lazy duff and make data DVDs as backups for my files and pictures. I label the DVDs by the date range and then throw one copy in my DVD wallet and take the 2nd copy to the safety deposit box. I also call my sister-in-law and pester her through a backup session.
Sound anal? Maybe. But I’ve never lost an important file or a photo. I remember my old tech support days talking to people who lost entire novels or years-long photography/videography projects. Remember. ALL hard drives will fail. Please do your old pal IF Optimist a favor. Take an hour this week to back up anything that is precious. Don’t wait, no excuses. Don’t make your husband do it if he is a laggard. If you have any questions, post them here and I will answer them. You have an expert at your fingertips. I am happy and honored to help. :-)