Case Study: Backups Explained
June 24, 2005
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
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.
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.
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
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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