Backup Basics

Our computers hold progressively more and more important information. Pictures, documents, memories, and more Here's a look at backup basics that kicks off five weeks of backup software reviews. Check it out.
Published: Nov 27, 2006
Author: Michael E, Callahan
Related OS: Windows
Tucows Editorial Feature

Backup Basics

by Michael E. Callahan aka Dr. File Finder

Part of the editorial series on backups and backup software


All of us have become dependent on our computers. Individuals, groups,states, governments, banks, doctors, hospitals, and businesses. Whereonce paper records and files filled cabinets and cardboard boxes, we nowhave hard drives that are filled with data. All the public informationabout you is stored on computers. Your health records, your bankaccounts, your stock portfolio, your Scout troop, you church groups,your neighborhood watch list, your driving record, and so much more issitting on computers. The average persons name passes across a computerscreen an average of 80 times a day. Let's face it, our society and ourworld has come to rely on computers.

A Little History

From the time of the first computers that filled entire rooms up to thepresent there has been a need to protect the data entrusted tocomputers. In the early 1980's you did your backups to 360K floppydisks. File sizes were much smaller then and so were the disks. Harddrives were very expensive. In the early 1990's many startedbacking up to 1.44MB 3.5" floppy disks. Tape drives became anoption for many businesses and some individuals. These types of backupscould often be automated and run on a schedule. That assumed, of course,that you didn't need to switch tapes in the middle of the process. Todaythere are a number of options for backing up data. You can backup to DVDdrives, CDs, DAT tape drives, external hard drives, and more.

Save Your Work!

I remember in the early days of computers when I was younger and morefoolish. I was writing a science fiction book and I was really workinghard on this one chapter. I had several hours into it when the computerlocked up. I tried every trick knew, but nothing worked. I was frantic,I was irritated, and most of all I was mad at myself. There on thescreen sat nearly three hours of work and I got to the point where Iknew it was lost. I had to turn the computer off and when I didmy work was gone! Not long after that I found a little programthat would cause my text editor to automatically save every few minutes.

When my daughters and later my wife started to use the computers theyhad to listen to my mantra. "Save Your Work!" Of course they lostinformation a few times, but gradually they also started to make surethat they saved their work.

Over the years I can't tell you how many times I've received phone callsfrom friends all asking the same question, "Can you help me get thisdocument back?" In nearly every case the answer was NO! I'mnot a magician. When you're working on a computer and creating data in aprogram, that information is in memory. It'sfloating around in RAM and there is nothing permanent about it. In orderto protect you investment of time and energy you have to save it!

Save ALL Your Work!

At the most basic level backing up your computer is savingall of your work. Protecting it so you don't lose it.Would you leave $20 bills laying around on your front porch? I thinknot. So, why leave all your hard work unprotected? You've made thatfirst step and remembered to save you work. The next step is to save allyour work by doing regular backups.

Think about all that would be lost if your computer crashed and you hadno backup. I'll use my own computer as an example. I have pictures goingback years. Pictures of the trip my wife and I took to Ireland for our25th wedding anniversary. The first pictures of my granddaughter,Cahlia and her brothers Braddock and Zaiden. I have emails going backten years. I have documents that pertain to my work, I have poemswritten by my daughters, I have letters I wrote to loved ones who areno longer here, and so much more. I have payroll data, invoices, taxrecords, graphics, press releases, the complete text of that sciencefiction book I wrote, and all of "Dr. File Finder's Guide To Shareware."

My point is that each of us keeps a good portion of our life on ourcomputers. Our photos, our work, our music, and some of our memories.All you need to do to protect those things is to backup. It's thatsimple.

Summing It Up!

Computers are wonderful devices that make so many things easier. Theybecome repositories of our information. Some of us use them for work,some just for play. The data on our computers is only as safe as we makeit. Today there are so many backup options that there is no excuse notto backup your data. You can backup to CDs, DVDs, external hard drives,network drives, Web sites, and tape drives. It's a simple matter tocreate a backup solution so your data is always safe andsecure.

To help you out each Tuesday in December I'm going to be reviewingdifferent backup software products. I'll talk about solutions that coverthe spectrum of needs. Backup software for individuals, small business,for those on a network, and more. On January 2nd, 2007 there'll be a"Roundup" of backup programs to summarize for you.

Make it your New Years resolution to start doing regular backups. I'llgive you all the help I can and point out programs that I know workbecause I've used them. Programs can always be reinstalled, but thedata you create with those programs can never be replaced if it'slost. Stay tuned throughout December for reviews of backup software and we'll help you get on track. Remember:

"Save your work, save ALL your work!

About Michael E, Callahan

Michael E. Callahan, known around the world by the trademarked name Dr. File Finder, is regarded as the world's leading expert on shareware. Dr. File Finder works with software programs and developers full-time, and in the average year he evaluates 10,000 programs. Since 1982 he has evaluated over 250,000 software and hardware products. Mr. Callahan began evaluating software online in 1982 and no one has been at it longer. He currently works doing online PR and marketing for software companies, and is the Senior Content Producer for Butterscotch.Com.

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