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What Do We Mean by Data Backup and Recovery?

Your data disappeared. Deleted. Zapped. Mysteriously vanished. Whatever the case may be, you know you need help. Start here. Entry-level data protection advice, direct from our experts.

You are at your PC finalizing a report and open a program. Your screen freezes, then flickers and dies. You lose the rest of the day trying in vain to find a fix. Then you spend the night tossing and turning as you mull over how much you’ve just lost. Files, contacts, family photos, research, financial data, passwords and so on.

Don’t be that guy (or gal). Data backup is about creating and preserving a copy of your PC’s content to guard against a virus, crash or other disaster. In other words, making sure the stuff that matters most on your PC is always secure and accessible.

Storage: Where Backup Files Live

Backup devices — the hardware that stores the actual data — take many forms, including:

  • Online backup services: Storing your backup files with an online service is a simple and increasingly popular option — especially if you travel a lot and don’t have a ton of data to back up. Most services allow you to store a limited amount of data at little or no cost; fees increase with the amount of storage you require.
  • External hard drives: Today’s external hard drives feature automatic backup and lots of storage. If you travel often, you can easily find portable devices that hold 60GB+.
  • Network attached storage (NAS): If you have multiple computers, at home or at work, NAS lets you back them all up to a single location. NAS also allows for network sharing of files and printers.
  • USB flash drives: Small and portable, USB flash drives are great for backing up files on the road. However, most don’t have the storage capacity to serve as your only backup system.

Software: How Backups Happen

The system you rely on for backups needs to support the degree and frequency of backups you need.

  • One-click system backup lets you back up everything with a single click.
  • Files-in-use backup lets you perform data backups while your computer’s still working.
  • Complete system backup saves a copy of your hard drive, allowing you to restore your entire computer back to a given point in time.
  • Incremental or differential backups may be used in conjunction with complete system backups to limit the data — and time — involved with a backup.

Other features to consider in backup software include data compression to maximize storage space, filtering to identify certain files for backup and password encryption to protect against hacking. And make sure you understand how — and how quickly — you’ll recover files and programs after a loss.

Once you’ve found a backup system that suits you, be sure to use it and use it right. Test it every so often to be sure it’s working. And then look forward to a good night’s sleep.

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