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Case Study: Backups Explained
June 24, 2005
Author: Josh Manufacturer: N/A
Department: Software Model: N/A
Article Type: Case Study Time Spent: N/A
 
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Introduction




All users are a little different, and their approach to backups will be as well. With that in mind, we are aiming this article squarely at home users, and we're going to show you how three different staff members here at BoxGods approach the subject of backing up their data.

Some people may ask “Why do I need to back up my data?”. The easiest way to answer this is by saying that losing all of your data really SUCKS!

As a “computer” person, I can tell you the only feeling worse than losing all your data from a system failure is getting a call from a panicked friend asking if you can come over and fix a PC problem—with the end result being the loss of all his data because he had no backup strategy in place.

You can see the thought process on their faces as they think of all their information being gone forever. The 10,000 song MP3 collection—gone. All the family photographs—gone. Three years of financial records and tax filings—gone. Emails, address book, and all those saved Emails—gone.

The problem is often not even laziness; it’s a lack of knowledge. What files should I back up? How exactly do I back them up, and to where? How often? Today, you will get answers to these questions.


Types of Backups

With average home PC hard drives now routinely being 200GB or bigger, deciding what to back up can seem like an impossible task. Well meaning friends will often advise you to “just clone the entire drive”. Others will tell you to do a full backup. Then some will tell you to just copy the files you want onto a disk and call it a day. Well, what does all of that mean? Here is a brief explanation of what all that mumbo-jumbo is.

Disk Cloning/Imaging: This means using a third party application like Norton Ghost to copy the entire contents of your C: drive to another hard drive…in essence, an exact duplicate, or “drive image”. Sounds like an easy fix, right? If you have a catastrophe, simply swap your cloned backup drive image and you're good to go.

Selective Backups: This is probably the simplest method one could use. All that it requires is some sort of secondary storage medium (second hard drive, CD, DVD, etc.). All you have to do is simply put anything you want backed up onto said storage medium. The downside is that you can't really set up a schedule or perform any fancy incremental backups; it's up to you to decide when to copy your data.

Full Backups: This type of backup copies all of the files and settings that you specify and puts them on the storage medium you choose. There is an extension to this--it's called Incremental backups. Incremental backups copy only the data that has changed since the last backup and appends it to the master backup file. Pretty handy tool if used right.


Where Do The Backups Go?

Once we have a good idea of what we want to back up, the next question is where to back it up. This depends largely on the user, the system set up, and the type/amount of data. Optimally, a second hard disk in your machine or on another machine on your home network, if you have one, is the best choice. Below are several solutions based on different set ups:

Single PC, 1 drive, no network:

Burn your backup onto CD’s, or better yet, DVD’s. Consider adding a second HDD, either an internal or a portable external when you can.

Single PC, 2 drives, no network:

Install your OS and Apps on the smaller of the two drives. Store your less critical “bulk” items, like music, on the second drive, and back up valuable data to the 2nd drive at scheduled intervals as well.

Two PC’s each with a single drive, on a small home network:

Backup machine A to machine B, and vise-versa. Machine A has an area set aside as backup space for machine B, and B has the same for machine A. Consider adding an additional drive to the faster of the two machines and designating it as the backup storage location for both machines.


 
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