With papers and project piling up, now is not the time of the semester to chance your computer’s hard drive failing. The best way to make sure that you don’t lose important information is to backup your computer by placing a duplicate copy of your data onto a secondary medium. But with the number of options for computer back-up growing as quickly as the number of assignments you still have to complete, finding the best option might seem too daunting.
Fortunately, the START – Student Technology Assessment Resources and Technology – team has put together a list of the possible options for backing up your computer – as well as pros and cons of each option to help you make an informed decision.
External hard drives – These offer a relatively inexpensive way to back up your information and many of them come with prepackaged backup software to make the backup process easier. Recently, these hard drives have also become much smaller and more portable – making them an appealing option. They aren’t fool-proof, though. You have to remember to manually use it as a backup if you don’t always have it plugged into your computer and, much like your laptop’s hard drive, they can fail due to wear and tear. If used frequently, external hard drives last for three to five years.
Online file storage – Storing files online using sites like getdropbox.com, mozy.com and digitalbucket.net is similar to utilizing your network P: drive. These sites are usually free or inexpensive and can allow for files to be shared from computer to computer. Storing your files and documents online also means that your information is easily accessible from most computers without carrying much else around. However, most sites do not offer much memory space and some will only allow you to back up word documents, not music or pictures. And, in terms of speed, the backup process is only as fast as your network connection.
USB Flash drives – Flash drives, like those manufactured by SanDisk, are another popular method of saving information. They are very portable and have become much less expensive over the years. Some of them now even come with backup software. While they can be convenient, they often are not equipped with much memory space for large amount of material. The size, which makes them portable, also makes them easy to misplace or lose.
CDs and DVDs – These are often forgotten as methods of saving information, but they are a cheap and quick alternative to making extra copies of important files. While they may work well for immediate saving of one or two things, they typically do not have a lot of memory space. In order to update the information saved on a disk, you will need to purchase rewritable disks – which may be harder to find.
For more information about backing up your computer effectively, as well as other great tech tips, check out the Healthy Computing Web site online: http://www.depauw.edu/it/healthycomputing/. The site contains tons of information and tips about how to use technology effectively at DePauw.
Contributed by David Diedriech, Technical Training Coordinator
Backing up your data is the best way to protect yourself against viruses, accidental deletions and overwrites, and other scary computer troubles. The minutes you spend in backing up your files once a day or once a week can save you from hours of frustrating labor reconstructing lost databases, expense records, papers, and research notes.
Backing up is Easy to Do!
Don’t avoid backing up your data regularly because of the mistaken idea that backups are difficult. Some surprising truths about backups include:
• It’s as easy as saving or copying files to a folder. If you don’t know how to save a file to a folder, ask!
• It’s fast. Backups do not take hours to do since you only copy the unique data you’ve created.
• You don’t need special software to do it. All you need is an external drive or storage device (see the list below.)
What Files to Back Up
You should back up any data that you do not wish to lose, or is critical to your job or class. You do not need to back up program files, as they can be re-installed from original CD’s. A few examples of types of files to back up:
• Reports, term papers, letters, or other important documents
• Excel spreadsheets
• Databases, such as Access or FileMaker
• PowerPoint presentation files
• Music files
To make backing up your data easier, you may want to organize your files into one or more discreet folders.
Backup Drives or Devices
The best way to keep your personal data safe is to keep a backup copy of your files in another location. If the document is really important, you may want more than one backup!
Important note: if you are in a DePauw Computer Lab, remember, once you restart a lab system, EVERYTHING IS ERASED! Always save your working copy somewhere else.
Below is a list of some locations for you to back up your critical data:
• Network drives – automatically backed up by IS staff
• I drive: for a specific class (group projects, websites, etc.
• P drive: your own personal storage area (50MB provided)
• Optical (CD-RW, DVD-R) drives
• Large capacity (680MB/CD, 4GB/DVD!)
• Almost all systems have them
• Other “new” methods: USB(flash drives), FireWire drives
• Small, portable, fast!
For more information on backing up your data, visit Microsoft’s website at http://www.microsoft.com/athome/security/update/backup.mspx