Getting Started: A Guide to Data Backup
Don't risk losing data to theft, disaster or human error. Play it smart and back it up. We take a look at the basic options.
By Sally Curran
Some things in life you simply can't afford to lose, and when it comes to your business, data should be at the top of the list. Sales records, tax information and other sensitive data are vital to a business' long-term success. Losing data could have severe implications up to and including losing your business for good. Backing up data protects you from all sorts of harm, including human error, Mother Nature and hardware failure.
More Than Vanilla and Chocolate
A full backup consists of a copy of your entire system; typical components include all of your data, applications, drivers, settings and your operating system. Of the four types of backups, this one takes the longest to create, but it has the distinct benefit of restoring your system to its exact state at the time you created it.
Incremental and differential backups are similar to one another; both make copies of only the files that have changed since the last time you ran your backup schedule. The main difference between the two is that differential backups do not indicate which files have changed and therefore grow bigger and bigger. Because incremental and differential backups don't copy each and every file on your system, you'll find that they generally take less time to create (and less time to restore).
For the average small business owner, incremental backups are the best option: They're easier to deal with than their differential counterparts. Windows XP and Vista include system tools that let you schedule automatic data backups to suit your needs: hourly, daily or weekly.
Last, but certainly not least, come selective backups. In this case, you manually select the files you'd like to back up at a given point.
When starting a new backup routine, your first step is to make a full backup. This is especially true if your computer came preinstalled with an operating system (OS) and other software applications. Many PC manufacturers do not include the software discs, and you'll need the backed-up applications to re-create your system should disaster strike.
You'll also want to create a startup disk for your operating system. If your operating system goes belly up, your computer won't be able to boota startup disk will get your system running. The process for creating such a disk varies from OS to OS, but your PC's help files will guide you.
After you have the full backup in the bag, you'll most likely want to switch to incremental backups. It really comes down to how much storage space you have, as well as how much time you have to back up your system.
Build A Backup Arsenal
The hardware department offers myriad options. External USB hard drives are aptly suited for this task. They're easy to install (simply plug the drive into an empty USB port), and it's a simple matter to move a USB among multiple computers. Furthermore, they're speedy and a breeze to use. Seagate's Maxtor OneTouch 4 Plus (price varies depending on capacity) and Iomega's Silver Series Professional Hard Drive (price varies depending on capacity) are both solid performers.
Next comes optical media. CDs and DVDs are good, reliable options that can quickly and cheaply back up a lot of data. An ordinary CD can store 650MB a single-sided, single-layer DVD can hold 4.7GB while a single-sided, double-layer DVD can hold 8.5GB. Flash drives, often called thumb drives due to their similar size, are also convenient for quick backups and have the added benefit of extreme portability. Capacities range from less than a 1GB to as much as 16GB. Note: USB flash drives aren't intended to act as your sole means of data backup. They're handy for moving large files, but don't forgo a main backup plan.
Remember: After you create your backup, make sure it actually works. Ensure that the files made it to the external drive or DVD disc. A backup of files that won't open only adds insult to injury.
A simple way to keep an offsite copy of your data is to use one of the many online data backup services such as Mozy.com, Imation's DataGuard Vault or Backup.com. These types of services automatically secure and transfer your data to an offsite data center. Typically, these services provide state-of-the-art security and offer far more protection than a small business could provide for itself.
Play It Safe
Article courtesy of SmallBusinessComputing.com
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