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Backup Options and Strategies for Your Home Office Part I

written by: Joli Ballew•edited by: John Garger•updated: 2/18/2010

Are you prepared for a home office disaster? If your water heater breaks and floods your office, if your home is robbed, or if you have a hard drive crash, you need to have viable and up-to-date backups. And guess what? They should not be stored in your home office!

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    Backup Options

    What would happen if your house caught fire? Most likely, all of your family photos and movies, your music collection, and your valuable documents (like your homeowner’s insurance policy, your will, and letters from an old flame) would be damaged or lost. That’s not all though, everything in your home office would be destroyed too.

    Disasters don’t just come in the form of fires and floods though. What if your home was robbed and your PC was stolen? What if your toddler spilled milk on the tower, or your golden retriever jumped on your desk while playfully chasing the cat? Having backups is the only way to protect yourself. They’ll have to be good, reliable, and recent backups though; you can’t be willy-nilly about these things. If you don’t believe me, just imagine losing everything on your computer: personal and client documents, important e-mail, Internet favorites and cookies, and software registration codes. Believe me, it’s a nightmare trying to re-create all of this stuff, and many times impossible.

    If you’re convinced you need a good, reliable disaster plan, continue on. If not, reread the previous paragraphs. Once you’re convinced and ready, we’ll go ahead and create your personal backup strategy, including choosing a backup device, performing the backup, getting on a schedule, and finally, organizing the backups you create.

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    Choose a Backup Device

    There are several ways to create a backup of data, and it doesn’t matter which one you choose as long as you choose one. If you have a CD or DVD burner, you can drag and drop and burn your backups to physical media that you can archive easily. If you have an external hard drive, again, you can drag and drop. If your hard drive ever fails, you can recover. Each of these options has pros and cons though, so we’ll work though each and you can choose the one you feel is right for you.

    The Simplicity of CD and DVD Drives

    CD and DVD burners offer a great way to back up data. You can drag and drop and use XP or Vista’s built-in burning application or any third-party one to create reliable backups. This is a good option for a lot of people. However, if you decide to go this route, keep the following in mind:

    • It’s going to be difficult to remember to do this, and you’ll have to be disciplined to stay on a regular schedule.
    • You’ll need to burn CDs of new data weekly to have up-to-date backups. The cost for this will be high.
    • Getting the right amount of data on the disk can be tricky, and you’ll have to know a little math, as well as how to find out how large your files and folders are.
    • Unless you create subfolders every time you add new data to your hard drive, when backing up folders such as the My Documents, My Music, My Pictures, and My Videos, you’re going to create a ton of duplicate data in your CD or DVD archives.
    • CDs don’t hold much data. If you only have a CD burner, as your data grows, you may find that you’ll need several CDs to create a single backup. DVDs hold a lot of data though, so if it’s possible, acquire a DVD burner.
    • People tend to store their CD and DVD backups in a drawer or on a shelf next to their computer. If there’s a fire or flood, they’ll be destroyed along with everything else. If you create backups this way, at least move the CDs and DVDs to another room, or preferably another home or office.

    Don’t let any of this discourage you. CDs and DVDs make great backups, don’t get us wrong. They will last for years, there are no compatibility issues if you get a new computer, and you can move them off-site to protect them.

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    Opting for an External Hard Drive

    External hard drives are, well, external, and they are hard drives. They store data just as the one inside your PC does. External hard drives connect to the PC using a USB cable and are Plug and Play. Just plug it in, connect it to the PC, and you’re ready to go.

    As with backing up to CDs and DVDs though, there are disadvantages to this option:

    • It’s going to be difficult to remember to do this, and you’ll have to be disciplined to stay on a regular schedule. However, with an external drive, it’s easy to drag and drop at the end of each workday. You just have to get into the habit.
    • People tend to keep their external drive on the desk or on a shelf next to their PC, or worse, on top of the PC’s tower. While this will protect you in the case of a computer crash, it won’t protect you if there’s a fire or flood or if the tower is tipped. If you create backups this way, the only way to truly be safe is to remove the drive from the office at night and store it somewhere else.

    Don’t let these two things discourage you though; external hard drives make great backups. Each day you can drag and drop the new data to the hard drive and simply write over existing data.

    Create a Backup Strategy for Your Home Office Part II of II

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