Nearly anyone who has owned a computer for a significant amount of time has probably had to deal with a hard drive failure. First, you may hear a squealing and knocking noise coming from inside your computer. Depending on who made the computer, you may actually get a pop-up warning about “imminent hard drive failure”. That is if you are lucky. Eventually, the computer starts crashing repeatedly and finally, when trying to turn on your computer, all you see is a black screen telling you that the disk cannot be found. Or you may not even get any warnings at all.
A hard drive is basically a disk, with springs, levers and an arm that races back and forth to read the data on the disc. Hard drives are full of tiny mechanical parts, and eventually, one of those parts will wear out. Outside factors, such as the environment or shock damage can also speed the process of wear on a hard drive. Though drives are manufactured to last for many years, sometimes that is just not the case.
Is there anything that can be done to prevent a hard drive from failing? Aside from never turning on your computer, and the obvious stuff like keeping it away from water, dropping the machine or placing magnets all over the case, the hard drive will eventually fail. For this reason, backing up your important files is one of the most important things you can do. If you use your computer to run a business, backups are even more critical. What are some of the ways you can back up your important data?
- Nearly every computer nowadays is built with a DVD or CD burner. These devices, and the media that goes with them, have become extremely inexpensive. Using a CD or DVD burner to back up your files is an adequate solution, but it can be a little tricky and time consuming. Most computers have built in software for burning disks, however there are some third party software programs that are effective. Nero is a popular one, however, unless it came with your computer, it is not free. We recommend CDBurnerXP. This is a simple to use program that is absolutely free.
External Hard Drive
- External hard drives typically connect using a USB connection, and provide a fast and easy way to back up files using simple copy and paste commands. External drives are portable, relatively inexpensive, and can be a good way to quickly back up your data. Another added benefit is that you can take the drive off-site, minimizing the risk of data loss if some unforeseen event took place like fire or water damage. To help automate your backups to an external drive, there are many software applications, including one built right into Windows and Mac systems. We recommend SyncBack Freeware. This is an intuitive program that is free to use. Just complete a wizard to start your automatic backups.
Network Storage Device
- Sometimes referred to as a NAS (Network Attached Storage), these units are self contained storage devices that connect to a network connection, rather than directly to your computer. Most NAS devices come with built in software to facilitate easy backup solutions. The benefit of one of these devices over a standard external drive is that they usually have redundant hard drives, which means, two hard drives that mirror each other constantly. If one drive fails, the other drive still has the data. Another benefit of a networked device is that multiple computers can access the drive for backups and data.
- A server is basically another computer that is primarily used to carry out functions like managing printers, files and databases. A server is not used as a workstation. A server can be any kind of computer, however, most typical servers are engineered to be more reliable and redundant than a regular computer. With multiple hard drives, redundant power supplies, extra memory and special software, a server is a great tool to use for backing up data from multiple employees on a network. By setting up a file server, and educating employees on using the server as the storage site for their documents and other digital assets, the risks of losing data from hardware failures are diminished. Of course, a server can still fail, and measures should be taken to back up the assets on servers as well.
What should you be backing up? To start out, make sure that your important documents and files are included in your backups. Typically, these reside in your My Documents folder of your computer. Remember to also backup the files that you have saved on your desktop. Some people save more files to their desktop than any other location.
If you are using financial software like Quickbooks, or contact database software like ACT!, you should also back up the database files for those programs as well. Losing all of your financial information can be devastating. If you are using Outlook or another email program, the emails you have stored in the program may not be available if your hard drive crashed. The key is to remember that all data has to be stored somewhere. It is a good idea to assess the critical tools that you use, and take steps to insure that the data being used by those tools is safe and secure, and that regularly scheduled backups are taking place.
All of the free software mentioned in this article can be downloaded safely from http://www.download.com.