Backup, backup, backup

I’m somewhat of a geek as you all know. I like networking, security, the interwebs, and generally all things geeky. One thing I find annoying (mostly because it isn’t fun), is backup.

No, not sleeping on your stomach – making copies of your files on a different hard drive, DVD, or even CD so that if your main computer or workstation dies in some way, you can recover in a relatively easy manner.

There are many, many ways to backup your files. There are even many different levels of backup. You could just backup your Quicken files, or your whole operating system. The level you choose is up to you, but don’t ever lose data just because you failed to prepare. Storage is cheap. Backup is easy. Don’t lose out.

A story – Some friends of mine own a local printing shop. I had chit-chatted a lot with them, and suggested that they backup their files (art, billing, etc.). In the end, they had not started backing up files a couple of months later, and then their main drive died. No warning, just a tiny puff of smoke and no working drive. About $2,000 later, they had all of their files back from a company that specializes in data recovery.

The moral of the story is… back up your files before it’s too late.

As a general public service, I’m going to provide a few different ideas and solutions. Take them for what you will, and use what you can. Email or comment with questions and concerns.

My first suggestion is Foxmarks for Firefox. Of course, you have to be using Firefox for this suggestion to matter. Foxmarks in its simplest form keeps track of your bookmarks in a centralized place (their servers), and synchronize them on any browser that you log into with your Foxmarks username and password.

Next up – photos. Photos take up a lot of space, and backing them up will take twice that space… or will it? My suggestion is to use Flickr. Flickr is free to use, and does have some drawbacks. You can only upload 100MB per month, and you can only see the most 200 recent photos. If you really need to upload more, or have to see all of your photos at once, you can pay $24.95/year for a Pro account. For me, I just upload photos as we take them, and then if we ever lose them all, I will just pay the $24.95 to have access to all of the older pictures. Free, permanent backup. Well, $24.95 to get them back, but free for now.

My suggestion for all you Windows users out there is to get a Maxtor drive from Staples that comes with software to automatically backup and restore your computer if the machine goes kaput on you. These types of solutions are fine for the average home user, and will get you back up and running in very little time.

My favorite way to keep a lot of common applications backed-up, but a little more complicated, is to use Portable Apps. These are a collection of common tools and programs that are mostly designed to reside on a USB-drive, but that work just as well on a regular drive as well. Simply unzip these programs to your desktop, and run them from there. When you want to make a backup, plug in your USB-drive and copy the whole folders over to it. The same can be done in reverse if you have been out and using your USB copy at school or the library. Just tell the file transfer to overwrite the old files, and now you have synchronized backups in both places.

Yes, there are other external backup types, but these are simple ways for an average user to keep themselves safe. This list is not specific nor comprehensive at all, it is just a smattering of some ideas and uses that I have come up with and/or use.