Back up for a Dummy

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Old 06-18-06, 03:51 AM
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Back up for a Dummy

Over the years I've developed knowledge and intuition of computing but for one crucial area: Backing up my computer. If my hard disk were to fail today I'd lose everything but for an early back up of Outlook pst files and some photos from Picassa. I'd be screwed!

I've looked at various articles, overheard general chatter on the matter, yet still don't get it! Do I put programs and files on DVDs? Do I buy another removable hard-drive and duplicate the contents of my current hard drive onto it? If so, can I automatically back up files and programs as they are updated?

Anyone?
 
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Old 06-18-06, 04:50 AM
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Backups

You will get lots of advice on this subject. Everyone has their favorite method. Here are some options that you can look at.

You need to decide if you are going to backup only those files created by you such as pictures, word files etc. or if you want to back up your entire system in a way that you can put it back as-is.

Hard drives are so inexpensive I use a second drive installed in my system or and external drive to do my bckups. I want to be able to put my system back as-is so I use software that creates an image of my system and put it on my second hard drive. This image is a snapshot of the system at the time you created it. It will backup partitions and the entire operating system. When you restore the image you simply reboot and you never know you had a failure.

Imaging has a couple of disadvantages. One the image is large (ususally 50% of the size of the drives being backed up) so you need a large hard drive to image to. The second is that it takes some time to image the entire system around 30-40 minutes on mine. I do it weekly.

To backup only files you have created you will need a smaller hard drive and you can do so with many available backup software. This is the quickest way but if you have a failure you will have to reload Windows before you restore your data.
 
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Old 06-18-06, 08:40 AM
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Well, thank you for taking the time to explain it! Sounds pretty straightforward. Can you/anyone recommend good but inexpensive imaging software.

likely a dumb question but should that second HD be solely dedicated to back up or can I also load other stuff onto it as well?
 
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Old 06-18-06, 11:05 AM
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A lot of it depends on how much information you wish to back up, and if you know where it 'all' is. Imaging a HD works well if you can't find everything or feel you have not done so. Some companies, especially Microsoft, like to hide your data. Outlook Express hides your data in a very non-intuitive place, and that place changes with different versions of OE! Same thing for your address books, etc. and much of this is per user account, so for each user who has email on the computer you will need to back up the files separately... Most are under 'Documents and Settings' now but have not always been. Doing a complete image both gets everything as well as compresses it.

Actual backup programs can both compress and allow you to choose your files. Choosing means you back up only what can't be reinstalled. This is what most companies use because unless you intend to reimage the drive images haven't made much sense ( tho I THINK you can restore specific files from an image now.. ?? Not sure: I still haven't gotten around to installing the Ghost licenses we bought ) There are both home versions of backup programs like Backup Exec and Bakbone as well as free backup programs. Windows comes with one, tho I still avoid it like the plague as prior incarnations failed at the worst possible times..

The other option is to just copy files to a spare hard drive. This is what I do at home. After reading this thread I guess I need to find a program to use I have two hard drives in my safe at home. The theory is to use one each weekend. My data only backups are on the order of 300 gig's or so, so they take a while.

One thing I Did do, which improved speed on my home backups, was to move to Gigabyte network parts. Now little more expensive than Fast Ethernet. They will do Nothing for what one can do with the web, but for PC to PC transfers they make quite a difference.

The other thought is Tape, which for home users never really made economic sense. And DVD's, which goes back to my orig thought: how much data do you wish to back up? Most people's home systems I see rarely have more than a few gigs of data... ok, these days that means songs too so lets say 5-10 gigs of data. That's two or three DVD's. You then have a backup you can easily store anywhere, take anywhere, etc. and can do multiple backups for very little expense!
 
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Old 06-18-06, 11:28 AM
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Back Up Software

Instead of imaging you may want to consider back up software instead of imaging software. With most backup software it will make a base image and then afterward, just the changed and new files so backups are a lot faster, not as large, and can allow as of date restores. I just checked Tigerdirect and they had a Computer Associates solution pretty cheap.

CA Desktop DNA Migrator Data Backup & File Transfer Utility CA's Desktop DNA Migrator is the quickest and easiest way to transfer - it was less than $15 CDN with rebate.
 
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Old 06-18-06, 09:35 PM
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No offense is intended toward Wilkindw in any way, but one thought which has always grabbed my attention is relying on multiple tapes to link/stitch together down the road.

They often don't. That's just been my experience. Why rely on two floppy drives to carry your data when a good compression algorythim can put them on one disk?

Thus my distinct preference for a full backup when any backup is done. no matter the cost.

It's a PITA to rationalize it for myself here at home, but as I have a reason for keeping/backing up each item of data it's just a cost I have to pay.
 
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Old 06-20-06, 11:47 AM
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Cool None Taken

I was just throwing the idea of using back up software instead of imaging software. Imaging is great if you need to recreate the entire hard drive (OS, Drivers, and Data, etc) on the same or an identical (HAL wise) computer. The way I read the original post it seemed like the objective was to prevent the loss of any user created data if the hard drive went south. Backup software would allow the person to select what information to backup (If your not too computer savvy then just select the document and settings folder).

I agree with the stitched together idea and a lot depends upon how much data and how frequently the data will be backed up. Most backup software uses compression so writing a full backup to a CDRW would give you roughly 700 Mb of compressed data space, while mostly media files (movies, pictures, mp3 already are compressed) don't compress, OS, Programs and Data do and you should be able to get the whole computer on it.

Most backup programs will calculate how much space a backup will require. With a DVD the available space is roughly 4 (single layer) or 8 (double layer) GigaBytes or in terms of CDs a single layer DVD holds a little over 5 CDs.

In addition to size requirements, you should consider time requirements. How long does the backup take? A full backup takes longer than an incremental backup. Also make sure you turn off any real-time (virus, Spyware, etc) scanning while the backup is running, some software will allow you to set these options.

If your looking at backing up every couple of weeks then only do a full backup but if you are looking at running daily backup you may still want to consider incremental backups within a media rotation.

Example: For a Monday to Friday Small Business where the backup fits on a single CDRW.
Use 10 CDRWs:
Do a full backup label the CDRW Month 3. Make sure to notice how long the backup takes
Take 4 CDRW and label them Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday. (add 2 to go 7 days)
Take 3 CDRW and label them Week 1, Week 2, Week 3
Take the last two CDRW and label them Month 1 and Month 2

Do incremental backups on CDRWs
in rotation order
Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday

Do Full Backups on Friday on CDRWs
in rotation order
Week 1, 2, 3, Month 1,
Week 1, 2, 3, Month 2,
Week 1, 2, 3, Month 3

After a full rotation start at the beginning again. You can now restore everything to a point 3 months, 2 months, one month, 3 weeks, 2 weeks, 1 week, ago or any day in the last week.

You may want to make a copy of the backup CDRWs to keep off-site

I going to stop now, I have a feeling I have gone way overboard on this.
 
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