At Nerd Busters, we see a lot of failed computer components, particularly hard drives residing in older computers. While traditional hard drives (those that spin) are pretty amazing devices, with new models holding up to 3TB of data (trust me, that’s a lot) in a single enclosure, it’s not a question of if they will fail, but when…
Why is it that hard drives fail so often? Well, hard drives spin at very high speeds and contain extremely delicate, fast moving internal components, both of which generate heat, vibration and friction. Despite the best efforts of the drive designers and engineers, the combination of heat, repetitive use and sensitive parts is a surefire recipe for disaster… eventually.
The majority of computer users, as it turns out, have no plan to deal with a catastrophic loss of data, so I pose these questions:
- What would you do if your hard drive stopped working?
- Do you have an external drive that continuously backups your data?
- Are you using an online backup service to store at least your most important of files?
- How important is the data on your hard drive?
Unfortunately, most people are not aware of the many low cost or even free options available to secure your data and prevent the headache caused by a total computer failure. In this post, I’d like to share some simple and easy to implement options.
1. Get an external hard drive
This is one of the easiest ways to completely backup your computer. To be safe, just purchase a drive of equal or larger size to that of your computer. Most likely if your computer is more than a year old, the size of your hard drive will be relatively small compared to some of the new external drives available today. For about $70.00 on Amazon.com, you can buy a Western Digital WD Elements 1 TB USB 2.0 Desktop External Hard Drive. That’s more than adequate for the average user and will allow you to backup all of your music and video files.
Installation and setup for most external drives is a snap. Own a Mac? Just plug it in and OS X will detect it and ask if you want to use it as your Time Machine backup disk. Have Windows 7? You’ll be able to configure the included Windows Backup. There are also a slew of 3rd party software apps for backup, but I won’t go into those now. If you need help, your friends at Nerd Busters are here to help.
2. Use an online backup service
I’ve tried many of the mainstream backup options on the market, such as Mozy and Carbonite. While these are very affordable and will adequately backup your data, I’m not really satisfied with there features and the actual file recovery process can be a challenge for most people. I prefer more full featured services such as Drop Box and SugarSync, with SugarSync being the Nerd Busters top pick . With SugarSync, you not only get automated online backup, but you can also synchronize your files between several computers and access your data from your iPhone or other mobile device.
The great thing about SugarSync is that they offer a free 5GB account that can be used to store your most important documents. Paid plans start at just $5 per month for 30GB. I use SugarSync to backup all my business and personal documents. If I need to send an insurance policy, business certificate or some other very large scanned file, I can open the SugarSync iPhone app and send a download link to anyone’s email address. No more clunky email attachments.
It’s important to note that with any online backup service, you’ll preferably want to compliment it with a local backup solution as it makes recovering your computer to it’s former working state a lot easier. Also, the goal with an online backup service like SugarSync or DropBox is not to copy every file on your computer, just the important items like documents, photos and music. Operating system files do not need to be backed up online. When an old computer fails or if you drop your laptop in the pool for instance, you’ll most likely get a brand new machine, so all you have to do is reinstall your applications and then let the sync client copy the files back.
If you want to sign up for a free SugarSync account, click here and we’ll both get a bonus 500MB of space. If you sign up for a paid plan, we both get a whooping 10GB of extra space! That’s 40GB for only $5 per month!
3. Use Gmail for your email
One of the first recommendations we offer at Nerd Busters is creating a free Gmail account with Google. Even if you don’t want to use the Gmail address, there are many great benefits of the free service.
- Email backup – you can use Gmail to check your personal email address and store all your emails with it’s 7GB capacity. Still want to use Outlook or Apple Mail? No problem as you can check your Gmail account with any POP or IMAP client.
- Perfect integration with most smart phone – Store all your email, calendar items and contacts in Gmail so that if you lose or replace your phone, just sign in on the new device and it will automatically start syncing for items back to the new phone.
- Everyone’s using it – Gmail is successful because it’s good. You’ll most likely have lots of friends and family already using it, so using chat or sharing calendars is really convenient because of the large user base.
Well, we hope you get something out of this article and please leave some comments!
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