Importance of Backups

Data is important to us all.   Be it family photos, a dissertation, or important work emails, it’s amazing how much reliance we have on our files and how we take it for granted that our information is safe and sound.   When disaster strikes it’s usually at the worst possible time and if there isn’t a recent working backup, then things usually go from bad to worse.

In fact, it is quite a weekly occurrence that a customer  comes in with an emergency involving their data.  Be it a faulty flash drive or ticking external hard drive, the chances that we can do something are usually slim.  For the lucky few that have either deleted or formatted, or have a drive with declining health, we can normally retrieve some, if not all the data.  For the unfortunate majority, the only possibility is an expensive and time-consuming data recovery using a specialist lab that although might be able to rescue some of your files,  will more than likely put a serious dent in your bank account!   Don’t get us wrong, these data recovery companies are amazing and can do wonders, but to pay for their expensive equipment, specialist staff and clean-room environments, their charge for a typical recovery could be £300-£500!  Well out of reach for vast majority of us normal folk.

All of this pain can usually be avoided and we though that it is probably not a bad idea to highlight some solutions that will save you time, money, and more importantly, a lot of heartache.

There are numerous off-line and online storage and backup solutions.  We have listed here some examples of each type with pros and cons.

If it’s just some temporary storage you need – moving a few documents from A to B then there are some nice portable methods you can use that you can even put in your pocket.

If like many of us, you have amassed quite a few digital things to keep safe, i.e. home videos & music collections built up over the years, then the most convenient option to backup is by using conventional hard drives.  These are commonly available and are relatively inexpensive working out to be just a few pence per MB.

Remember it’s not about just owning a drive, but also making sure that you regularly copy your important data to it rather than it sitting empty.  A Backup should be a copy of your vital information, not just the ONLY copy.

More recently, with the introduction of Cloud Storage, there have been many companies lining up to provide end users with the ability to to backup their files online.   These are normally sufficient for a few important documents but not great if you have many things to save.   You will find that there are even some that you don’t even have to pay  for, allowing you to protect your data for free!

So if you value your data, what are you waiting for?

External Hard Drives / Network Attached Storage

External hard drives can either be Desktop type (needs to be plugged in to the mains to operate), Portable (pocket sized but powered by the computer) and Network attached (plugs into your router or network).  Conventional external drives offer cheap storage with only a few pence per MB which makes it the preferred and quickest way to back up/retrieve your data.  Access is normally using a USB 2.0/3.0 or Firewire interface which most computers have and allows quick access and is trully the fastest way to back up – espExternal Hard Drivesecially if you have loads of large files (music and video)

Network storage is getting more popular but costs more than regular external hard drives.  The good thing about having it on the network is that with homes that have more than one computer – which to be honest is most households – many people can access it at one time simultaneously, unlike standard external hard drives that can only be plugged in to one machine at a time.

Most  drives normally come bundled with software that once set up, automatically backs up the most important data on your machine to make a copy on the drive.

+ relatively commonplace and available with low cost per MB

+ supported by all systems, Windows, Mac etc

– drives are still mechanical and vulnerable to drops and vibration damage

Online Cloud Storage (Dropbox, Google Drive, Live Mesh)

Growing in popularity over the last few years is online storage.  It does seem like a good option but there are limitations.   One of the convenient things is that it provides a folder that will automatically be synchronised with your online cloud storage and in turn will immediately beCloud available to wherever you have the client installed, be it your home machine, work machine, laptop or desktop, Mac or Windows etc.  The costwill vary with the amount of online storage you want but it typically is set by your chosen plan and its usually a monthly or yearly fee that needs to be paid upfront.   This is ideal for smaller collections of documents and photos, but you will need very deep pockets if you want to store your entire music/video library online.  Furthermore, with most people having Internet at home with still relatively slow speeds, it can be slow to access large files and even slower backing these files up.

+  free accounts available for 2 – 5GB

+ will work on most machines (Mac, Windows, iPhone etc)

+ relatively safe as data is held and backed up again by the provider

– can be expensive for large amounts of storage compared to regular hard drives

– some providers support only Windows

– slow to upload/download with limited storage

– needs Internet to be working for access .

– if you stop paying or forget to pay, then your data could be deleted.

Flash DrivesUSB Flash Pen Drive

USB Flash drives, typically 4/8/16/32GB in size.  A modern day floppy disk drive but not a long term solution and should only be used for transporting documents temporarily

+ very portable &  inexpensive

+ ideal for transferring small occasional documents

– not large capacity and vulnerable to damage due to constant plugging and unplugging

700MB to 4.7GB

Old technology, but still used and very accessible.  Drives are in almost all desktops and laptops so support is widespread across all platforms, Windows, Mac, Linux etc.    Dye used in  optical discs are organic in nature so are not a future-proof.  Use is in decline due to faster and cheaper (cost per MB) from Flash and External Hard Drives so many new laptops released soon won’t even come with CD/DVD drives.

+ readily available & blank discs inexpensive.

+ widely supported

– realtively small capacity

– vulnerable to scratches and damage

– data will degrade over time


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