Bite of Learning: Backing Up Your Digital Data

In early April, I presented at a Bite of Learning on the topic of backups, titled “Backing Up Your Digital Data”.

Many important files are stored on computer hard drives these days.  For example, you may have irreplaceable photos or videos, important financial documents, and so on.

A lot of home consumers consider their computer to be one big appliance, like a toaster.  What they may not know is that there are many distinct components inside a typical computer, and one of them is the hard drive.  The hard drive is the place where your digital data is stored, and if anything were to happen to it, your data might be lost forever!

In 2007, Google performed a massive study on hard drive failure trends.  If you’re interested in seeing the whole report, it can be found here:  http://labs.google.com/papers/disk_failures.pdf

What they found was:
- hard drive failures can be unpredictable, with more than half of drives failing without any self-warning
- failure rates generally did not correlate to drive usage

So how should most people back up their data to prevent loss?
Comprehensive backup consists of two parts: local backup and offsite backup

Local backup is fast and quick to recover, but because they are in a similar location, they are also susceptible to many of the same risks that your computer’s hard drive faces.

Offsite backup provides protection against local disasters and local theft, but takes longer to recover from since the data has to be recovered from a distance.

As a result, the best plan is to combine a local backup with offsite backup.

Local Backup
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for OS X, we recommend an external hard drive with Time Machine
- for Windows, we recommend the built-in Windows Backup utility, or Acronis True Image Home
- for Linux, we recommend rsync

Offsite Backup
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for automated backup, we recommend MozyHome or Carbonite
- for manual file backups, we recommend Dropbox
- all of these services offer free accounts, but to backup a lot of data, you’ll want to get a paid account

If you’d like to see the slides from the presentation, they’re available here:

Calvin Tong – Bite of Learning – Backing Up Your Digital Data

One thought on “Bite of Learning: Backing Up Your Digital Data

  1. Thanks Calvin – very useful. I think that I am going to go the Carbonite route. I don’t like the Mozy filesize restricitons. I am also backing up locally.

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