“Where are your backups?”, the dreaded phrase an IT technician asks just after you’ve lost all of your data. Unfortunately, by the time you realise you need them it’s normally too late. Whether it’s for home use or for your business, maintaining good backups of all your data is an important part of using any digital system.
Hard drive failures are one of the most common causes of PC faults and also the hardest to recover from. As the hard drive stores all of your information, it’s the most critical part when it comes to your data integrity. Specialist hard drive recovery services start at around the $2000 dollar mark and don’t have any guarantee of success.
I recently had the unfortunate task of trying to recover a friend’s laptop, which had been hit with a particularly nasty virus. He had been using the laptop to store all of his family photos on, so when he brought it to me with Windows not booting he was quite desperate. Unfortunately he didn’t take any backups of his photos. After running multiple different recovery tools, I had come to the sinking conclusion that all of the data was gone. The virus had “scrubbed” all of the data. There was no way to recover. Five years of photos were all completely gone without any way of recovering them.
In order to work out your backup needs, the first thing you should do is write out a list of all the information that you cannot afford to use. Here’s a few quick memory joggers:
- Tax returns
- Documents / Letters
- MYOB / Quicken data
- CRM Data
- Work photos
- Scanned invoices / receipts
- Website files
The loss of this information could cause you a lot of both financial hardship and emotional toil. The good news is there are a number of cost effective and easy to use backup solutions to protect you from these problems. Here’s our top two recommendations:
Acronis True Image 2014
The home / home office addition is as cheap as $39.99 per year (when it’s on sale) and allows you to create a complete disk image of your PC. This means that in the complete failure of your computer, you can restore from the backup and have all of your applications and settings restored as well as your data.
It also features an easy-to-use interface, the ability to sync files to your mobile device and the ability to sync files to “cloud” based storage.
CrashPlan allows you to backup your files to a local external drive, to another PC running CrashPlan, to cloud based storage or all three at once! The great part about the software is that it allows the local backups and backups to another PC for free. It’s only if you want the security of storing the backups online (which we do recommend) that you need to pay.
Prices start at around $7/month per PC and they have great options for businesses who want to have a neat way to manage all of their machines. Considering the low cost, this is a great option to have some peace of mind about the safety of your data.
If you’ve backed up a lot of data to their online system, they even have the option to have a recovery drive shipped to you at a very reasonable rate.
These two products are the ones we recommend for the Australian market and have used ourselves. We don’t receive any kickbacks or affiliate payments, so you can be assured that the recommendations are genuine! Of course, there are many other products out there in the marketplace which would also be suitable so it pays to do a bit of research first. Please feel free to place other recommendations in the comments below.
Verifying your backups
On a regular basis, you should check the validity of your backups by restoring some of the data to ensure it has been backed up correctly. Each of the different software packages comes with the ability to restore your files and you can do so to a different location so that you don’t overwrite the original file.
How often you test restoring data will be dependant on how critical the data is. If you can’t afford to lose a weeks worth of work, then we’d recommend testing at least once a month.
Backup backup backup backup! Hopefully you’ve read this article and already have a backup scheme in place. If not, then I certainly hope that this highlights the importance of doing so and helps you on your way to doing so.
- Make a list of all your important data
- Choose a backup solution
- Check that your data is being backed up
- Check that you can restore the data
Hopefully you never need to use your backups but if the case ever arises, you’ll be glad you have them.