Sunday, April 29, 2007

Backing up your home computer

Do you backup your home computer? How often? Chances are that you often think about backing it up. You might even have actually set up a "system" to back it up. And better still, you might even have backed it up a few times. But it's now been a few months since you last did a backup...:-(

That, at least, describes my situation. I think often about backing up our home computer. My "system" is to backup to CDs and DVDs, so it's quite a slow, cumbersome process. So I don't do it often---my last backup is dated 8/5/06...:-( Now that's called living on the edge.

I've been wondering about the right backup strategy. Something that will just work once it's set up.

One option is to buy a large external hard drive and set up nightly/weekly automatic backups. That will certainly create duplicate copies of your precious photographs, videos, music, and other documents, and will protect you from hard drive failures. But what if there's a house fire that destroys your computer and hard drive? (As we know from our experience, this isn't such an unlikely event...!) Or what if your house gets burgled? Last year my office mate had her house burgled and the thieves focused on taking all and only the electronics in the house---they failed to take an expensive pair of skis that were lying around, but did take all the computers and hard drives they could find! (Like our house fire story, this story also ended well---the police caught the thieves and almost all the electronics were returned safely.) So I suppose one can build extra redundancy into the system to make multiple hard drive copies and keep one of the hard drives in a safe(r) place. Sriram has adopted this strategy.

Another option is to use various online backup services (Mozy, Carbonite, etc.). This does seem like an attractive option, but has some problems for me. I would need a Mac backup solution, and most are PC-only. Also, we currently run Mac OS 10.3 (Panther), while most solutions expect you to be running Mac OS 10.4 (Tiger). So this might be yet another reason to buy a new computer (upgrading this computer to Tiger seems sub-optimal). And then there's a question of how reliable these companies are. Are they going to be around for the long run? A solution backed by one of the major Internet companies might be safer. Are you comfortable storing sensitive material there (such as documents related to your finances)? Frankly, I don't think I am---I'd rather back those up to CDs/DVDs and store those safely.

What do you do?

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