Hi-Tech 101: Beware the click of death

Get your backup act together with these easy ideas.

Click. Whirr. Click again. Uh-oh. That’s one too many clicks. Sounds like you’ve just heard the “Click of Death.” Hope you backed everything up! You’d be surprised how many people don’t, unfortunately. But sudden disk drive death syndrome (SDDDS, an acronym I just made up) is an unfortunate fact of life. Would you believe that in the US, over 170,000 hard drives are “lost” every year? Of course, it’s not the disk we’re worried about – it’s the data on the disk, consisting of vital and probably almost irreplaceable information.
Data backups are a big business for companies that cater to big business, but what about you – the home user? Your data, too, are important – whether it’s your household budget, family photos, contacts, bookmarks you’ve been collecting for years, creative works, facts and figures, or any other information you’ve been using your desktop or laptop to store. Imagine the nightmare of trying to replace all that stuff! You’d think that the need to back up would be obvious to everyone, but that’s not necessarily the case. Better safe than sorry: Now is the time to get your data backup act together, figuring out a strategy to make sure the information you rely on will be there tomorrow.
When we talk about “backup,” we could be talking about anything from copying a file or folder to a floppy (!?) or a CD, to mirroring the contents of your entire hard drive for later installation on another drive. The scope of what you need to back up may drive the type of backup you want; for example, it makes much more sense to do a local backup if you want to save a 160 GB hard drive, because doing that online will take a long time.
On the other hand, if you want to back up files and projects, online backup could be a good, safe, worry-free choice, because the sites that provide online backup keep multiple copies of your data and guarantee you will get it back. And, of course, there is the security issue: Can you trust online services? And what about if the Internet is down – how do you get your data back? These are just some of the issues you need to think about when deciding on a backup policy, and once you decide, check out some of the backup tools and services listed below.
Local Backup 
To back up your work locally you need a backup application and a place to store your stuff; an external USB drive will do just fine. Mac users are all set, since the Mac OS has a great backup program, called Time Machine, already built into the system.
Windows also has a built-in application, but it’s not as easy to use as the one for the Mac, and many prefer to download an application to do the work for them. One good app, which is free for personal use, is Allways (http://www.allwaysync.com/). Allways lets you sync your files, folders whole computers between laptops and pcs, USB disks, USB sticks, or over local network etc. It’s an excellent product, and the price is right!
Online Backup
There are several different strategies to doing a remote, or online, backup. One is to subscribe to a backup service, where you can sync your data over the Internet, saving it on a remote server. There are quite a few sites doing this nowadays, but IMHO one of the most reliable and reasonably priced is Mozy (http://mozy.com/), where you can back up as much as you want for $4.95 a month. The interface is easy to use, and they’ve always got online assistance available.
If you don’t want to spring for the five bucks, you can save up to 2 GB (per account) of data at Mozy – and many other sites – for free. One site that gives you a lot more free space – 50 GB! – is Adrive (http://www.adrive.com/).
VPN Internet Backup
Yet another backup idea entails sending your data to a remote computer,or to one on your network – except that here, you’re in charge of theremote computer. Using the free Buddy Backup(http://www.buddybackup.com/), Windows users can connect to remotecomputers over the Internet and back up their files online – usingcomputers they or their friends have disk space available on. It’s likehaving unlimited online backup without paying $5 a month for it – withthe advantage of keeping your data secure, on computers that only youhave the password to.
Regardless of how you decide to do it, get your backup going today.