I work in the Data Protection industry and can tell you that one of the things companies really worry about is protecting their corporate data. Unfortunately, while business understand the concerns, consumers typically don’t. The issue is that most consumer PC’s have a single hard drive that contains all of the users data. If that drive somehow gets corrupted either due to mechanical failure, virus or potentially user error, all the data will be lost. This is a more common occurence then you might think. There are a number of different options to consider to protect yourself against this. Here are some suggested approaches.

  • Backup to CD/DVD — This approach works fine and DVD burning packages such as Nero include backup tools. To get the best benefit you might also want to consider taking the DVD backups to a remote location to get better protection. (e.g. If there is a fire at your house then you will likely lose the PC and the DVDs if they are stored in the same location.) The downside of this approach is that DVDs only hold up to about 4.5 GB. With todays hard drives exceeding 500 GB in size, you could need up to 11 of these to do one backup.
  • Backup to a hard drive — This approach uses a second hard drive to backup the data contained in the primary hard drive. The second drive could be internal or external (e.g. USB). The latter is better because it can also provide geographic protection if you unplug it and take it to different location. The good news is that hard drives offer large capacities and should easily be able to protect all the data on the primary drive. The downside is that hard drives are fairly expensive. You also need some kind of software to manage the backup operations.
  • Third party service — There are third party service providers that can backup your computer. They will typically use your Internet connection and send data to a remote site when your computer is idle. This way you can simultaneously solve the problem of backing up and offsiting your data. One of services that I think looks good for this is called Carbonite. For $50/year they will provide an online backup service.

Which method should I choose?

Any of the above methods will work, but in my opinion, the most effective data protection method is the one that is fully automated. Neither of the first two options are automated and require you to schedule and run backups. Because of this, I recommend the third option. The beauty of this approach is that you just install the software once and backups just run automatically with no end user interaction required. The service is a little bit more expensive, but think about the alternative of losing all of your data.

How do you do it?

I use none of the methods above. Instead I use an open source application called “rsync”. The application synchronizes data between to machines. In my case, I “rsync” between a computer at home and a remote computer. Thus the remote computer serves as both a backup and provides geographic protection.

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