I’ll just say it at the very beginning; if you don’t backup, do it — today!
Everybody knows how important it is to backup your data, but most people actually don’t do it. According to Apple, only 4 % maintain proper backups.
I’ll try and give you easy-to-understand-and-follow tips here. Things that you actually can use. This will be a series of articles about backup.
Today we’ll start with… …starting. Get us going.
First of all let’s start with the most important things, that won’t cost you too much:
Backup you pictures
There is probably nothing you’ll miss more after a devastating fire or theft than you pictures. You’ll easily live without your couch, your TV (yes, you can ;-)) and your cutlery. Your insurance company will replace it for you! Your silverware is probably a bit worse, esp. if it has been in you family for generations. But most important is your pictures; it’s your memories!
How do you backup fast and inexpensively? With a DVD or a CD burner. If you have a DVD burner, use DVDs, as they provide more storage space, and they’re mostly less inexpensive than CDs when comparing cost/megabyte. If you use re-writable DVDs, you can re-use your DVDs (same goes for CDs).
If you can fit everything on a single DVD
If you can fit everything on a single DVD, it’s very easy; just burn (= record) it, and you have a complete backup! The next thing to do, is to store it outside your home. If you have somewhere to lock it up at work, do so. If you have a box in you local bank, nothing will be safer. Or at your parents’. Just make sure it’s not too far from room temperature and dry.
The next thing to do is to do it again. How often will depend on how often you add photos or change your pictures. I would make a new backup as soon as you add something important to your library, which normally means every time you adds something… Just burn a new DVD, and store it with the first one. When you have 5 DVDs you can start re-using them, if you us re-writable DVDs.
If you can fit everything on a few DVDs
Very often DVD recorders come with good programs, such as Easy Media Creation Suite (Windows) or Toast (Mac). There are many more good programs for both Mac, Windows and Linux, these are just good examples.
What’s nice about these programs, is that they enable you to span backups across several DVDs or CDs! That means that if your total amount of data exceeds the size of a single disk, the program will split them for you, without you having to do anything but changing the disks. Nice :-) And the next time you want to make a backup, the program will only backup the files that have been changed or added, saving you a lot of time!
When using this options, you can can easily make a backup of your entire My documents folder (Windows) or the Home folder in your Mac or Linux system. But DO exclude videos, if you have a large video collections, otherwise you’ll spend an eternity swapping disks! If you have a few tenths of gigabytes of movies or more, DVDs are not suitable.
If you can’t fit everything on a few DVD
Then it’s time for an external hard drive… We’ll talk more about this option later in this series, as this option also have a lot of other possibilities and implications as well.
If you use a mail applications, you’ll want to make a backup of your mail. If you use something like Gmail or Hotmail, Google and Microsoft (respectively) will make a backup for you. Use the help function in your mail program to show you where your mail is located. It should reside inside your My documents folder (Windows) or the Home folder in your Mac or Linux system. If it doesn’t you should move it there, and again consult the help function in your mail program. Mac and Linux users rarely have to consider this.
You’ll also want to make a backup of your other documents, such as letters, invitations, all your spreadsheets and text documents. These should be located inside your My documents folder if you use Windows, and Mac- and Linux users should store all documents inside their users Documents folder.
What NOT to backup
It’s important to know what to backup, but it is equally important to know what NOT to backup, otherwise you’ll spend your life swapping DVDs. I promise you, it’s only fun the first 250 times you swap…
If you use Windows or Linux, making backups of you applications is actually futile, as the most probably won’t work when you try to copy them back (also called “restore”). On a Mac it will almost always work, but make sure you make it a separate backup cycle, as applications tend to take a lot of space. On any operating system you might as well re-install everything from scratch — you don’t have to do that on Macs, but you’ll save yourself the trouble of swapping DVDs.
When you backup your home folder on Linux or Mac, you will also retain all preferences in your programs, but on Windows you’ll have to expect to spend some time after you’ve re-installed your software on setting your preferences.
As earlier mentioned, DON’T backup a large movie collection in the same backup as the rest, rather do that separately.
Don’t backup your system on DVDs, as you can re-install it from CDs or DVDs (you should keep those disks when you purchase your system or download it, you know ;-)).
One final word on backup applications… Check places like Versiontracker for software that meets your needs, and read the users comments on the software, as it can aid you in finding the right application for you. You’ll want the right application, not necessarily the cheapest application, and your don’t want to pay for features you don’t need.
Next time we’ll discuss using hard disks for backup.
But start backing up today, it’s easy!