Backup

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The Basics of Backup

BASICS OF BACKUP
Important things to know about backup


What is a Backup?
A backup is a copy of any kind of data, created as a replacement for situations when the original is lost or corrupted due to things like: hard disk failure, accidental deletion, theft, flood, virus infection, etc.



The Need for Backup
If your data is of any value to you, you should back it up. Just as you would insure a car, if it were of value to you. A common reason people don't backup, is they think disaster won't happen to them, the truth is every single computer and hard drive will eventually die or become corrupted. It is only a matter of time.



When to Backup
The time to backup is now, not tomorrow. Most of us wouldn't feel safe driving around in an expensive car without having insurance, nor would we want to leave it parked in an unsafe neighbourhood. But the fact is, many of us compute daily with priceless data stored on our computer, without any backup plan if our computer crashes.

You can't get car insurance after you have crashed a car. Neither can you backup your data once it has been lost! You should protect your data from disasters and mishaps now, before it is too late.

An especially good time to backup your data is when you are about to delete, install, or uninstall something that may affect your computer system.



How Often to Backup
You should backup up important files as often as possible. In the past, creating a backup was a time consuming and tedious task. Thankfully, today there is many good backup software solutions, and strategies. Backup software offers the capability to completely automate the backup process, so your data can be backed up automatically every hour, or every day, etc. This is ideal, so you don't need to rely on your human memory to backup regularly.

If you are creating new data daily, then creating a daily backup really is a good idea. It is easier to recover from losing one day's work, than a week's work, or a month's work, or a year's work.

Backing up the whole hard disk with imaging software, is something that takes longer, and if you are already creating backups of your important files regularly, creating a complete image copy of the hard disk can be done less regularly.



What to Backup
When it comes to backing up a computer, there are basically two options:

1) Backup only the important files: The most important data to backup is everything that would be difficult or impossible to replace such as photos, emails, written documents, etc. While creating a backup strategy, it is good to make a checklist of everything you would want to backup. This list may include things like: financial records, software and music you have bought online, personal documents, email address books, browser bookmarks.

2) Complete Hard disk Backup: On every computer, there is data that can be replaced, but doing so would take considerable time and effort. Such as your operating system, including all your installed software, and settings. You could always reinstall everything from disks, but that would take a lot of time. With certain backup software (hard disk imaging software) you can backup your entire hard disk, so that if it becomes corrupted, you can simply install the backup image of the hard disk, and everything (including all your installed programs, and settings) will be restored to the way things were when the backup was made, before the disaster struck.



Types of Backup
 
Type Definition Benefits Drawbacks
Full Backup: A complete backup of everything you want to backup. Restoration is fast, since you only need one set of backup data. The backing up process is slow.
High storage requirements.
Differential Backup: The backup software looks at which files have changed since you last did a full backup. Then creates copies of all the files that are different from the ones in the full backup.

If you do a differential backup more than once, it will copy all the files that have changed since the last full backup, even if you already have identical copies of those files in a previous differential backup.

For restoring all the data, you will only need the the last full backup, and the last differential backup.
Faster to create than a full backup.

Restoration is faster than using incremental backup.

Not as much storage needed as in a full backup.
Restoration is slower than using a full backup.

Creating a differential backup is slower than creating an incremental backup.
Incremental Backup: The backup software creates copies of files that have changed since previous backups of any type (full, differential or incremental).

For example if you did a full backup on Sunday. An incremental backup made on Monday, would only contain files changed since Sunday, and an incremental backup on Tuesday, would only contain files changed since Monday, and so on.
This method is the fastest when creating a backup.

The least storage space is needed.
Restoring from incremental backups is the slowest because it may require several sets of data to fully restore all the data. For example if you had a full backup and six incremental backups. To restore the data would require you to process the full backup and all six incremental backups.

 


Built-in Backup Features in Windows
Windows XP comes with backup features built-in, but it compares very poorly to third-party backup software. Most users find it is not worth the effort.

Windows Vista, in the Business, Enterprise and Ultimate editions, comes with far better backup features than XP, but it is not as feature rich as the leading third-party software. For example in Vista, you can create a complete "image" copy of the hard disk, but you cannot retrieve individual files from within the backup image. You have to restore the whole lot. Vista does have a backup utility which allows you to backup individual files, but it is very limited. In a review of Vista by PCworld.com, the backup utility of Vista was listed as one of the 5 things they hated about Vista.


How to Backup
 

Manual backup You can choose the files, and folders you want to backup, and manually copy them to somewhere else, such as on to a CD/DVD, or onto an external drive. One form of manual backup is to email important files to yourself, so they are stored on the email server of your web-based email service. You can create a backup of email addresses by printing out a copy on paper.

Manual backup methods are very slow, tedious, and annoying. These are some of the reasons why most people don't end up creating backups regularly, and suffer the consequences.
Semi-automated backup Backups are made using software that automatically creates the necessary backups when you run it, but you need to remember to run it, this leaves room for human error.
Fully-Automated Backups are created regularly and automatically by the backup software, which sends the backup to your desired backup location, whether it be online, or another computer, or an external harddrive. Generally fully automatic backups are set to run at night.

The ideal backup strategy is easy, and automatic. If it isn't then you will not be likely to keep doing it. So manually backing up may be ok for emergencies, but if you are serious about backup then you need some form of automated strategy, that you can set and forget.


Where to Store a Backup
When considering where to store your backup, some important things to consider are how much will you backup, how often, and the costs involved.

It is a good idea to keep at least one backup onsite, for fast restoration in the case of accidental deletion, and at least one backup off-site for safety in case there is a serious disaster such as fire, theft, flood, etc. An offsite backup may involve placing a DVD or external hard drive at a different location. But the easiest and best option for offsite backup is to subscribe to an online backup service.
 

Storage Type Storage Capacity Cost of Device Ongoing Costs Speed Pros Cons
External Hard Drive High Low per gigabyte None Fast Easy to backup, easy to automate. Liable to same damage as master drive if directly connected, and at the same location. Since a virus or lightning strike can corrupt both at the same time.
CD/DVD Low-Medium Low Moderate Slow Portable Burning CD's and DVD's is time consuming.
Solid State Storage, such as memory stick. Low
1GB-2GB
High per gigabyte None Medium Portable, good for storing small files, such as documents. Low capacity, easily lost or stolen.
Online Backup Medium-High Free to Setup Set monthly fee,
Or even free for up to 2GB.
Medium Easily accessible,
Can be fully automated,
Off-site, no devices required.
Large transfers may take a long time.
Other computer connected through network Medium-High Medium None Fast Fast. Software, and technical skill required. If the computer storing the backup is onsite, it is at risk of same dangers as the computer being backed up.
Magnetic Tape High Relatively high Relatively low Medium For large data storage, it's slightly cheaper than storage on a hard disk. Magnetic tapes are more vulnerable to errors. Short storage life.

Testing the backup
Having a backup is only helpful if the backup actually works! The only way to be sure is to test it.


Learn more about backup
So that covers the basics of backup, be sure to check out the rest of the site for more info!




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