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When planning a computer backup I am reminded of the story of the actress Kim Novak. Who, after much encouragement started to write her memoirs on her computer. Her manuscript was well on its way towards completion, when her house burned down. Not only did she loose her computer, and everything on it, but, she also lost the backup CDs she had so diligently made.

The moral of the story is while it is not only important to do a computer backup, it is also as important to protect the backup medium. Some people will store the backup data at work, or at home, or with family members, or in the trunk of their car. Others will choose to do online backups, where the data is stored at a remote location. This is an attractive choice but it does have a cost.

Consider the backup medium, where you are going to store your data. You may choose one or a combination of several different media for the computer backup of different types of data.

  1. Magnetic Tape. Historically this has been used for commercial applications for many years. But, most SOHO (Small Office Home Office) users do not have a tape drive.

  2. Backup hard drive. Currently this is the most popular backup media. It has grown in capacity and the cost has come down to very attractive levels.

  3. Optical Disks. These devices are great; most everybody has a CD or DVD burner. But, with the advent of larger hard drives (more data) they do not have the capacity to compete, but, consider them for selected files. I backup some of my files on DVDs.

  4. Floppy Disk. While this device was very important for backups in its time, now its capacity and speed have rendered it obsolete.

  5. Solid State Storage. These devices are becoming more and more affordable, while at the same time increasing in capacity. I use a flash drive as one of my backups for this website.

  6. Remote Backup Service. With the advent of the broadband Internet connections online backup services have flourished. It allows you to backup your data across town or around the world. For your protection the data can be encrypted. There are two drawbacks to a remote backup service. They are limited to the speed of the broadband connection; and the cost of this service is not as attractive as one would like, but it is getting there. As the Internet matures speed will become less of a problem; and as disk capacity increases, cost will come down. Some of the service providers are offering free usage for a limited amount of storage capacity. Mozy offers the best online backup with unlimited storage for $4.95/Month! This is something you should look into. I also use this method to backup my computer and website.

There are different types of backups you can use, each with their own advantages and disadvantages. Consider how each will provide you with the best results for the least amount of effort.

  • Full backup is the starting point for all other types of computer backup and contains all the data in the folders and files that you have selected for backup. Because a full backup stores all files and folders, frequent full backups result in faster and simpler restore operations.


    1. Restore is the fastest


    1. Backing up is the slowest
    2. The storage space requirements are the highest

  • Differential backup contains all files that have changed since the last Full backup. Repeated differential backups include all changes from the last full backup.


    1. Restore is faster than restoring from incremental backup
    2. Backing up is faster than a full backup
    3. The storage space requirements are lower than for full backup


    1. Restore is slower than restoring from full backup
    2. Backing up is slower than incremental backup
    3. The storage space requirements are higher than for incremental backup

  • Incremental backup stores all files that have changed since the last full, differential or incremental backup.


    1. Backing up is the fastest
    2. The storage space requirements are the lowest for each increment


    1. Restore is the slowest

  • Mirror backup is identical to a full backup, with the exception that the files are not compressed and they can not be password protected.


    1. The fastest backup type, lends itself well to RAID 1


    1. It needs more storage space than any other backup type
    2. Password protection is not possible
    3. Cannot track different versions of files

As you can see the method of computer backup chosen depends on how you use your computer and what data you have stored on it. Most SOHO users will find a combination of these methods is best. The approach that takes the least effort on your part and assures that your backups are done regularly is the online backup service. Mozy offers an online backup, with up to 2GB at no charge. Use this for your very important data.

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