Hassle-free backups

If anything goes wrong with this finely tuned electromechanical system, all your data can be gone in 60 nanoseconds. And despite decades of research and testing by thousands of talented engineers, things still go wrong.

Have you backed up your data today? If you don't regularly back up your computer, don't feel too bad - you have lots of company. And if you are one of the forward-thinking few who back up regularly, you deserve a medal. If you aren't, you must like living dangerously.

Bigger equals riskier

Okay, you have a million things to do, and a hard drive hasn't failed on you in years. New hard disk drives are indeed more reliable than their counterparts of a decade ago, when PC users spent much of their maintenance time working on or replacing failed hard drives. Your data was as important then as it is now, but there's much more of it today - and probably many more applications as well.

Corporate IT departments may back up user data onto their networks automatically (usually overnight), but individuals in corporate departments may be responsible for backing up much or all of their own work. If your work PC crashes, don't expect any miracles from the IT folks.

If you're a power user, or if losing your business PC for even a few hours would cause big problems, the backup equation becomes more vital. You need to make reliable backups regularly, and you need an extra hard drive for quick swapping if the worst-case scenario occurs.

PC users today have more backup alternatives than in the past, and new hardware and software make automating backups easier than ever. Whether you choose the reliability of Travan tape, the versatility of recordable optical media, or the convenience of online backups, there's an effective backup strategy that will meet your needs without taking up too much of your time.

We looked at tape drives (the traditional backup peripherals), CD-RW drives, DVD-RAM drives, and Internet-based backup, as well as removable-media drives, network- attached drives, drive-mirroring controllers, drive-imaging software, and automatic backup utilities.

Tape backups remain the best choice for simplicity and price, but many people will prefer the versatility of CD-RW drives, as long as they can tolerate their relatively meagre capacities. Finally, if slow data transfer speeds don't bother you, online storage may be your best choice.

Backup vs. backup

Tried and true: tape drives

Backup burns: CD-RW drives

DVD-RAM: in the wings?

Internet backup arrives

The backup quandry

Do I really need to back up?

Alternative backup solutions

Backup checklist

Running on batteries

Internal vs. external

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Stan Miastkowski

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