How to backup your computer

60% of businesses that have a catastrophic data loss go out of business within 6 months.

IF you have a small business that makes over $3000 per month, you NEED to have both an onsite server and have it backed up EVERY NIGHT to an offsite location. Your business depends on it.

It seems that everyone who owns a computer knows that they should back up their data. But can you name anyone who actually does back up their computer? If you do not back up your data, you are a simple thunderstorm away from loosing it all. Losing all the information on a home computer is bad enough. Loosing the data on a small business computer can destroy your business. It is a fact that EVERY hard drive will fail, eventually.

You have your computer set just how you want it. Al the software is loaded that you need, you have tweaked theinterface to the way you like it. If you have had your computer for very long, you have tweaked your settings, installed software, downloaded music or video to enjoy. If your hard drive fails, what will you do to get it all back? If you have your computer properly backed up, simply restore what you lost and go on with your business. But the situation is very different if you do not have your computer backed up. In this case, you will have to reload Windows, install the necessary updates, install all your drivers, install all your software, try to recover your e-mail, download again your music and video, begin to start tweaking your settings, and anything in My Documents is probably gone forever.

For a real life example, read the case study to the left

So I have scared the heck out of you now haven’t I? Don’t worry, I have some solutions for you. And as usual, you can invest your money or your time.

So lets simplify things.
Below is a list of instructions from most to least desirable in terms of protecting your data. Read them, and if you understand what I said, consider that to be a viable backup solution for you.

SOLUTION:: Sign up for an automatic online backup service:
PROS- Easiest to set up and use, most reliable. Affordable, at least the one I recommend is.
CONS- Costs you money, you must have a broadband connection to restore your computer.
My opinion: The closest thing to an ideal solution for every home user and small business. After you set up the account, you back up your entire system. Then each night or whatever interval you set, the software will back up any changes made to your computer since the last backup. This way if something happens, you toss in another hard drive, restore everything, and be right back where you were at the time of the last backup, which should be at the close of business yesterday. You can also retrieve specific files, instead of a full restore. If you are a small business, this is the only backup system I recommend. Many services even encrypt your data as well.
Who is it best for: I recommend this service for almost all of my customers, both home users and small businesses. This solution may not be best for larger business, or home users with very little interaction with their computers. Lets face it, If you have nothing irreplaceable on your computer, then simply have your hard drive reformatted and Windows reloaded if it dies. You will lose everything, but so what? Start over when it happens. In fact if you fit into this category, you do not even need to back up your computer at all.
What I recommend: Carbonite Automatic Online Backup service. It costs less than $55 per year and your data is encrypted. You get unlimited bandwidth, so you can even back up your music and those videos of your dog running into the back porch screen if you want to. You have the option of restoring any file you need from a single file to your entire system. Other online backup services charge you by the amount of data you back up, or the bandwidth you use. Carbonite doesn’t. You may have noticed an ad or two on this site. This is the system I use and the system I recommend and install for my customers. Feel free to compare Carbonite to any other backup services.

SOLUTION: Use the right software and back up the system yourself
PROS- Saves you money in the long run, you restore your computer without a broadband connection. Some software can be set to backup automatically
CONS-This takes TIME. You will get sloppy and only back up every once in a while, unless you automate the process. No offsite storage.
My opinion: This is the perfect solution for those tech savvy types out there with a good attention to detail. Buy a backup program, and an external hard drive. Set up the software to back up to the external hard drive on a regular basis. Or ghost your drive every week or so and save the image on the external hard drive. (You can back up to CDs or DVDs or whatever medium you choose, including another computer on the network.) Grab whatever you back up to on your way out the door in the event of an emergency. BUT if you are not there when the fire breaks out, you just lost your business. Also remember that the external hard drive is likely to be stolen during a break-in. If you use an external hard drive, put it in such a place so that a thief will only see the cable running into the computer he is stealing. He will unplug the cord, and steal the computer leaving the external hard drive. If the hard drive is visible, it may get stolen along with your business. The same problem exists for other media you back up to. CD’s and DVD”s will be destroyed in a fire, so after you make the back up, store them at a different location, like your locker at the bowling alley or something.
Who is it best for: If you are a techie and have no problem blowing out your system and restoring it this is an almost perfect solution. The only caveat I would place there is the problem of the storage being onsite. Outside of techies who can restore their own system, and larger small business that have a dedicated IT person I do not really recommend this method.
What I recommend: This solution is only recommended for larger business, and only if they use a tape back up system with two sets of tapes, one always stored off-site and rotated each week.

SOLUTION Don’t back up the computer, just copy all my stuff somewhere else, CDs, DCD, external Hard drive, etc..
PROS- Cheap and easy, but if you have as lot of music or something, it could cost a little for backup media.
CONS- Takes time, doesn’t save any computer settings, will not restore programs installed on the computer, you must know what to back up, no offsite storage
My opinion: Poor man’s backup. At least if you save a copy of My Documents you wont loose grandmother’s peanut butter cookie recipe. Also back up your computers drivers, and application data as well. Then you can always blow out everything, reload Windows, and re-install MS Office, PhotoShop, etc and copy everything back onto your computer. You have the disks for all your software, or at least the proof that you purchased it don’t you?
Who is it best for: You, if you are not doing anything else to back up your data
What I recommend: In order to save your data you will need to set Windows so that you can see hidden files and folders. To do this open My Computer, click on tools, then on “folder options” When folder options opens, go to the “View” tab, and look in the “Advanced Stetting’s” section for “Hidden Files and Folders” and check the choice “Show hidden files and folders” .If you know how to, delete your temporary files, or run Cleanup from the Recommended Software page.

To select the files you need to save, open “My Computer”, click on the “C” drive, and double click on “Documents and Settings” folder. When this opens you will see a list of all the user accounts. You will need to save the following folders from each user account that you normally use:
My documents
Application Data
Local Settings

This will save all the normal things you need to save, but only if you store things in the normal places Windows stores them.. In other words, If you put a folder of vacation photos on your “C” drive (instead of putting them into My Pictures) then you must copy this particular folder, and any others like that you use. If you have bookkeeping or tax software, be sure to find and save the data files from these programs, as these types of programs often save everything in a special location. You may want to back up your drivers too. Copy all of this to a CD or DVD. Collect up the various disks of software you have installed including your system restore disk, Make two copies of each disk, put one in a desk drawer and the other in your bowling locker. Make sure to copy them as ISO’s if they are bootable. If you do not understand all of that, do the parts you did understand.