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Please note: This is aimed at personal storage, not enterprise level

Begin Blog: 13:20 EST; Shutting down Windows 7 Professional Edition

The reason for today’s restart is that I was attempting to backup data to one of our network drives when I discovered that I could not connect to any of them. On any networks. Given that I had not restarted my box for a while, I figured I would restart and see what happens next. On that topic – I think we all know by now that we should be backing up our data regularly but not everyone knows where to start.
As with dieting, the best backup routine is one that you will stick to: I’d rather you have something that’s maybe not as ironclad (no carbs EVER), but that you will do on a regular basis (eat mostly good things, with occasional ice cream and cookies and cake and why did I write this hungry.) Basically, we are going to do a quick rundown of how to decide what backup solution might be right for you.


1. What data is important to you?

This is the starting question to a lot of our assessments. Most of the time it is not worth dealing with ALL of your data if you do not have to. Do you want to have an entire drive image? That is cool and can help a lot in corporate settings if you want to wipe and re-image things. However as a home user, you probably don not – so what matters? Know what is on your machine that you want safe such as tax documents, scans of important paperwork, music files you bought in high school that somehow made it to your current PC, family photos, artwork, ect.

2. Know where that data is.

That might seem really silly, but we encounter a lot of systems, even in businesses, that are storing things they should not – or not storing things they should be. If you have a system for storing things (Photos in the Photos folder, Documents in the Documents folder) that is great. If not, you should. As long as it is not inconvenient, it can help to only backup 3-4 folders rather than chase down 200 different files.
Since you now know WHAT and WHERE your data is that you want backed up you can use that to estimate how much space you need.
3. Pick your backup method.
Here is where the options can get overwhelming, but they really break down into:

a. Hardware

b. Cloud-based

Hardware can be something like an external hard drive, thumb drive, discs, tapes, or whatever suits you. The upsides here:

i. It is a one (or rare) time cost compared to subscription-like cloud storage
ii. You maintain physical control over the backups (this can be a con – store it in a separate environment or at least in a safe that is rated for electronics in a fire)
iii. Transfer time can be quicker for large amounts, especially over USB 3.0 or slow internet connections

Cloud-based storage is gaining popularity and there are a lot of sites to choose from like Dropbox, SkyDrive and Carbonite. There are already loads of comparisons and reviews on the Internet so we will not do that here: just make sure to do your research.

i. Many providers can sync your data to/from multiple devices like your phone + laptop
ii. It is generally accessible anywhere you have an internet connection
iii. Someone else gets to worry about keeping it physically secure

Of course, both have their cons as well. You have to keep track of the hard drive. Should you choose to encrypt it to protect your data, you will have to keep the key/rescue disk/passcode etc. safe and remembered also. Many people are concerned with the security of cloud storage, both in transmission and wherever it is stored. What it really comes down to is which pros and cons are the most important to you (price, convenience, security…) and choosing from there. Hopefully this little starter has helped you get, started.

Did I miss anything? Let me know in the comments! Obviously I am rushing a bit here, let us see if I won…

Windows: Time I could access the share: 13:40 = 20 minutes 
Backup breakdown blog: Conclusion time 13:35 = 15 minutes
Kerstyn wins by a landslide even though she force-shutdown the PC. Windows, are you even trying?