Back up your computer every day 
Friday, January 19, 2007, 10:58 AM - Computers, E-mail, Links, Software, Technology
I've learned from experience that almost every computer, at some point, will crash, whether the hard drive fails or something goes wrong with the operating system. Unless you're highly familiar with computer hardware and software, and you can diagnose problems before they manifest themselves, it is in your best interest to back up your data every day.

For personal computers, I recommend SyncBack, a free program from 2BrightSparks. (There's also a full version, SyncBack SE, which is not free.) After installing it, you can create a profile that will specify what files to back up and where to copy them - preferably an external hard drive, although you can send the files off-site via FTP, which is a viable option if you have the connection speed and the necessary disk space. You can automate each backup using the Scheduled Tasks tool in Windows; I've got mine scheduled for every evening, right after I finish work.

To make backups easier, I've separated my hard drive into two partitions; the C drive is home to my programs and computer settings, and the D drive is where I keep all my files, include:

- Business and personal documents
- Digital photos and music
- Work (local copies of the web sites I've developed)
- E-mail (Outlook PST files)
- Synchronized files from my PDA
- Downloaded files

If you run a server, a tape backup is nice, but you're probably better off with a remote backup, in case of fire or some other disaster. A server can connect with an FTP site a lot faster than a personal computer can, so you can usually run a backup script overnight without too many problems. There are plenty of online services that offer backup space, but you can usually get a better deal with a web hosting company.

For example, my company currently offers web hosting plans starting at $9.95/month for 5GB of space.

Even if your computer doesn't die any time soon, it's likely that you'll be replacing your computer within the next three to five years. When that happens, you'll be happy that you have all of your files backed up automatically, which will make it much easier to transition to your new computer.

I've also found it helpful to have immediate access to files that I accidentally overwrite or delete, realizing shortly thereafter that I made a mistake and need to undo my work.

If all of this sounds like a lot of work, just remember, it's nothing compared to the work and expense involved in recovering data from a computer that won't boot, or attempting rebuilding all of your important files.
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