Back it up… before it’s too late!

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When was the last time you backed up all that important data that’s on your computer? Those important tax files, those photos from that unforgettable vacation or those documents from that really important project you’re working on?

If you’re like most people, the answer is probably a blank stare and ‘Never’. With the increased reliability of computers, almost everyone forgets to back up important files. Let me tell you, the look on despair on people’s faces when they come to me with a dead hard drive asking if I can recover their pictures, is heartbreaking. Especially because it’s not cheap; a full data recovery can run upwards of $1500 if the disk has to be disassembled. That’s the price of a high-end computer!

So, what can you do to avoid being in that terrible situation? There are a few options:

First of all, you can purchase an external hard drive. That is usually my recommended solution, as you can get 1 TB External USB Hard Drives for less than $100. Sure, it won’t help you if your house burns down, but computer failures are much more common than house fires. Make sure you purchase one from a good, reliable brand, like Western Digital or Seagate. Stay away from unknown brands; there is no sense in purchasing a device that will not work when you most need it.

Another option is to burn important data onto CDs, DVDs or Blu-Rays, the latter still being somewhat unaffordable at the time of writing this article. The advantages of this type of backup solution are one, low cost (if you don’t have a lot of data to backup) and portability. What some clients of mine do is burn their important documents and pictures onto a DVD, and leave it at a trusted relative’s home or a safety-deposit box. That way, if something happens to the contents of their house, at least the irreplaceable data is safe.

When backing up to CDs or DVDs, keep in mind there is much debate about “Archival Quality” CDs or DVDs. It may not be worth it to spend extra money buying gold-plated CDs and DVDs, as there is currently no independent testing to verify how reliable they are. It is better to check the media every two to three years to make sure it is reading properly, and perhaps re-burn it.

Finally, cloud storage is an option that is getting more and more popular each day. The basic concept of it is to store your data in “the cloud”, which usually means a server somewhere. Many companies offer cloud storage services nowadays, such as Google, Apple and Microsoft. It’s usually the cheapest method to perform backups, since all of these companies offer free accounts for smaller quantities of data.

Keep in mind, however, that really sensitive data, such as tax returns or banking information should probably not be uploaded to a foreign cloud service. Canada has very tough privacy laws, but services hosted in other countries are not bound by the same laws, even if the user is Canadian.

Stay tuned for the next article about backup software!

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