Bringing Your Computer Data into the 21st Century

EasyTech tells you why — and how — you should salvage your files from outmoded storage systems.

Are you trapped in the past when it comes to data backup? If you’re still saving documents, photos, videos and other media to CD or DVD (hello, 1995?) or even (cough) floppy disks, then this article is for you.

But we don’t want to sound too harsh. After all, it’s great that you've developed the backup habit. That will serve you well when deciding on a new, more reliable way to back up your stuff. Read on for the lowdown on why and how to rescue those files stashed away in dusty corners, in crumpled shoeboxes or on old PCs.

Ditch the Disk Approach

For an idea of where we’re coming from, check out some of the funny videos produced by ioSafe, which makes tough-as-nails external hard drives. The videos show “indestructible” ioSafe drives surviving floods, fires, and even the crunching wheels of a tractor.

We’ll assume you don’t park your backup system behind the barn, so losing your data to a run-in with farm equipment might not be your most pressing concern. But the message is an important one: Don’t waste time and effort backing up your stuff, only to see it damaged or disintegrated by an unfortunate accident, an act of nature or the simple passage of time.

Even if  you’re storing your disks in a safe spot, out of the reach of thieves and your curious preschooler, the discs are at risk. After just a few years, disks can begin to degrade and lose their data. Extreme temperatures, humidity and handling are all possible culprits. Plus, disks take up a lot of space.

The sad truth is that even modern data-storage technologies, like flash memory and platter-based hard drives, can fail or degrade over time. So, whether you’re storing your wedding pictures or crucial business data, developing a strategy for a more secure backup system is your best move.

As you mull over your possibilities for backing up files, keep a few rules in mind: 1.    Be open to paying (a little) for security and simplicity. 2.    Use more than one strategy, including offsite storage. 3.    Give serious consideration to cloud services for the ultimate backup.

Go Way Beyond the Floppy

The best ways to back up your stuff today?  Let’s look at the basic onsite and offsite options.

Physical drives: The new breeds of external hard drives are fast and tough. They hold a ton of data, and with prices falling fast, they’re a great bargain for backing up the stuff that matters. Solid-state drives (SSDs) use integrated circuits to store your data, making them far less vulnerable to damage than the platform drive that’s probably supporting your PC.

The introduction of mega-capacity tetrabyte drives, meanwhile, means one little box can hold all the material on those hundreds of CDs and DVDs cluttering up your library, and then some.

Cloud storage: Cloud services are wildly popular for a reason: They’re a great idea. As the New York Times notes, "Storing your files in a distant commercial data center, encrypted and secure, increasingly makes more sense."

The desire for more secure backup is often the very thing that drives small-business owners and individuals to look to the cloud. Companies like Carbonite, Dropbox and Mozy have made online storage simple, affordable and utterly reliable. And because they’re offsite and super-secure, they’re immune to threats that can devastate a physical backup  system, like theft and fire.

The Logistics: Getting It from Here to There

Let’s say you have some precious files and emails trapped on an ancient machine that’s on its last legs. If you’re imagining yourself chained to a desk chair, searching for and copying data over to your new PC, don’t panic. Thanks to the latest technology, data transfer from old machine to new is safe, simple and affordable — and very quick if you turn the goods over to the experts.

If you do tap a tech expert for data transfer services, he or she will need to open the casing on your old PC and carefully remove the hard drive. The old hard drive is then plugged into a power source and connected to your new machine with a data transfer cable.

Software built  into your new PC’s operating system manages the actual transfer and, voilà, all of that old data is granted a second life on your new machine. In fact, data transfers can even salvage files that you might have thought were lost or damaged.

What Are You Waiting For?

As these terrific new ways to back up data grow even more popular, your opportunities to access those old data-storage forms are only going to shrink. (How many new PCs do you see with a floppy disk drive?) Don’t wait for your outdated backup system to get any older or fall prey to a heat wave or water damage.

Whether you’re talking about heirloom photos or business data, now is the time to act. Move the content of those disks or old PC someplace safe, and massage that dated DVD backup routine into one that’s really going to work for you in the long term.

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