Do I really need backup software? Hard drives are so much more reliable now than years ago, so a good drive should last longer than the useful lifespan of a computer. Right?
Why Do You Need BackUp Software?
Modern hard drives are engineered to last an average of at least 50,000 hours in use before a failure occurs; this rating is called the Mean Time Between Failures or MTBF. If your hard spins for an average of 12 hours a day, 365 days a year, it should definitely last over 11 years; right? Well, no. MTBF is the _average_ time between failures. There is a significant possibility that your drive will fail sooner, taking your priceless data with it. Mechanical drive failure is one good reason to make regular backup copies of your data.
It takes very little time for a computer's hard drive to fill up with your entire life: financial records; tax forms; names, addresses, and phone numbers; appointments; irreplaceable photos and videos; rare music; and so on. Not to mention important documents that you don't want to lose.
You can hope and pray that your hard drive won't crash and burn before your computer becomes obsolete, but what you're wrong? Try telling your boss, teacher or spouse "The dog ate my hard drive" and see how quickly they ask where your backup is.
Other Reasons to Have Backup Software
Hardware failure isn't the only thing that can cause data loss. Computer virus infections are another good reason to make backups regularly, especially right before you install new software from any source, even a factory-fresh, licensed copy of a program. A virus can sometimes dig itself so deeply into your system that the only practical way to get rid of it is to reformat the hard drive and re-install operating system, application software, and data. (See my related article about Reformatting a Hard Drive.) You may have the original discs for the operating system and application software, but if you have not backed up your ever-changing data recently you will lose some of it.
Data can be destroyed by flood, fire, and other catastrophes. Many people make regular backup copies of their data and store the copies at a remote site, so if the home or office burns down they still have most of their data.
You may even erase your own data accidentally. If you've made a backup copy recently, you won't need to kick yourself when that drag & drop operation doesn't go the way you planned.
Backup Software and Strategies
So it's a good idea to make backup copies of your data regularly. How often you need to back up data depends on how often you add and modify data. But a backup once a week is a good rule of thumb for most people.
You might choose to back up only data that needs to be backed up, in order to save time. Backup software should allow you to copy all of your data files; only files that have been created or changed since the last backup; files in specified folders only; and files with specified extensions. The software should also let you exclude classes of files from being backed up, i e., no .tmp files.
Personally, I do a full system backup weekly, and incremental backups on a nightly basis. I also do real-time backups as files are changed (for certain folders only) so that if I accidentally modify a file, I can revert back to the copy that existed a few seconds ago. This real-time backup saves my bacon on a regular basis, when I open a file, make some changes and forget to save with a new filename.
All versions of Windows come with a backup utility, though it's not the fastest or most flexible solution available. Some popular commercial backup programs include Acronis True Image, Genie Backup Manager, and Retrospect. But there are also free backup programs, and some excellent online backup services. Check out these related articles for help choosing backup hardware and software:
Share your backup strategy, or other thoughts on this topic. Post your comment or question below...
This article was posted by Bob Rankin on 19 Jan 2010
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Article information: AskBobRankin -- Backup Software (Posted: 19 Jan 2010)
Copyright © 2005 - Bob Rankin - All Rights Reserved