Nobody likes backing up, but one day up-to-date backup of your hard drive can be a lifesaver.

Your hard drive might crash. Thieves might steal your laptop at a café. You might realize on Friday that you desperately need the now-lost Wednesday version of an important document that you significantly altered on Thursday. Here are the most efficient methods of protecting your stuff, no matter what your situation.

A data loss protection scheme can seem troublesome and time intensive to set up but after a data failure, you will wish you had set it up. The following are few practical strategies handpicked from Stellar Phoenix to help you make a good back-up strategy including using USB storage, backing up via the Internet or through your local network, backing up Windows itself, and preserving huge media files like songs and videos.

Before all that, have you given a thought to all the things you should back-up? As per a recent study an average 94% of computer users don’t back-up or have flaws in their back-up strategy.

Your hard drive may contain hundreds of thousands of files. Many of them should be backed up every day, others only oc¬¬casionally, and still others--including temp files, operating system files, and your browser cache--not at all. Let's look at the different kinds of files individually.

First, here are things you should back-up daily

  1. You should back up your word processing files, spreadsheets, and similar documents every day.
  2. Apps created and maintained data files such as e-mail messages, browser favorites, calendar entries, and contacts that require daily backing up. Microsoft stores Outlook and Outlook Express data in C:\Documents and Settings\your name\Local Settings\Application Data; in XP, C:\Documents and Settings\your name\Application Data; in Vista, C:\Users\your name\AppData.
  3. Large files may require a separate backup strategy. If your backup medium is sufficiently roomy and fast, you can back up your photo, music, and video files every day.
  4. You can always reinstall Windows and your apps, if you have the original discs or can download the programs. But if Windows becomes unusable or your hard drive crashes, switching to a system backup (also called a disaster recovery backup) that you create a couple of times a year can get your machine up and running smoothly without much effort.

If your backup program can handle incremental backups, you don't have to worry about recent documents as separate entities. But if you often work on these files on other people's computers, you may want to carry a copy of them on a flash drive or store a copy of them online.

Strategy 1: Easiest Backup of All
You buy a USB drive, you plug it into your PC, and the backup starts. You don't have to install software on your hard drive, or figure out and configure backup sets, or even tell the program to launch. This fully automated backup knows what needs backing up and what doesn't. You don't have to decide which files and folders to back up. The first time you plug in the drive, it backs up everything on your regular hard drive--data, applications, even Operating System (Windows or Macintosh it does not matter).

Some commonly used tools under this strategy are Seagate, SanDisk’s Ultra Backup line, Rebit, HP's SimpleSave, etc. If you already have an external drive, you can buy the Rebit software by itself for $50 (though I've seen it for less than $30) and install it on your own drive. Also you can try Rebit free for 30 days. For more on this visit How to Select a Perfect Backup Hard Disk??

Strategy 2: Automate Your Backup, and Store It at a Safe Distance (commonly known as Cloud)
A backup continuously connected to your computer is vulnerable to the same dangers that might threaten your PC, as is a backup kept in the same building as the PC. But if your system rarely lacks a fast Internet connection, an online backup service can perform completely automated backups that it saves to a server miles from your PC. You don't have to purchase hardware or plug anything new into your computer, though you must install software. This arrangement gives you access to your data from any Internet-enabled computer.

Internet backup services share some inherent flaws, starting with being horribly, horribly slow. Your first complete backup can take days or even weeks (though you can work while it backs up). The agonizingly unhurried upload speed may explain why a few providers offer unlimited storage per PC. Anyone trying to back up 500GB or more of video over the Internet would soon give up.

For similar reasons, I don't recommend on­­line backup services for people who work with high resolution picture, music or video files. If you're editing a movie, for example, the daily backups will be much too large for a once-a-day upload to manage.

Also consider cost. Though $5 per month per machine may sound cheap, with multiple systems the charges add up. Plus, do you trust an online company for long-term data storage? We sure don't. For more on this, visit Is cloud solutions really more secure than in-house services? It can be economical but is it 100% SAFE?

Strategy 3: Back Up the Whole Family
Getting yourself in the backup habit is hard enough. Getting your family on board is nearly impossible. So why not set up a single centralized backup for everyone in the group?

If you connect several computers to one another and to the Internet through a router, buy a network-attached storage (NAS) drive--a box containing one or more hard drives that you plug into your router via ethernet. Anyone on the network who has the right permission can access those hard drives.

Most NAS drives come with software for backing up. Every PC on the network has instant access to a huge drive that can hold vast video files or anything else. And the drive is always on and always attached, so backups can run automatically. Some commonly used tools under this strategy are Synology, Seagate Black Armor, Thecus, D-Link, Iomega, QNAP.

But make sure you protect your personal data well because anyone with access to your router will get access to ALL of your data. For more on this visit How to Protect Your Data While Travelling?

Strategy 4: Protect your digital pictures, music, and video
How many gigabytes of multimedia files do you have? If you back up to an external hard drive or to a network-attached storage drive, large media files don't cause problems. But if your backup media has limited capacity (like a flash drive) or is slow to upload (like the Internet), you may want to find another way to protect your folders of digital pictures, music, and video. The best approach for you depends on how often your files change. If you edit them regularly, they are current documents and should be part of your daily backup routine. In that case, go with NAS back-up.

Things are simpler when you're dealing with files consisting of photos and videos that seldom change, or of music bought online. Incremental backups and versioning aren't issues here. You just need to make sure that the files exist in more than one place. How you use these files protects you to some extent. You likely copy your music to a portable media player that may permit you to copy the files back. Posting your pictures on a photo-sharing site such as Flickr creates a temporary backup.

Some commonly used tools under this strategy are DVD-Rs and DVD+Rs which cost a little but work well. However, an external hard drive is faster and holds everything without swapping.

Strategy 5: Prepare for the Big Disaster
If your regular, daily backup program offers disaster recovery, you have a system backup in place already. But Windows tends to get corrupted very slowly, so it's a good idea to create and set aside a permanent system backup when Windows is healthy. Unfortunately, backing up Windows and your applications isn't as easy as backing up data. The only reliable way to proceed is to back up the entire drive. When disaster strikes, you'll need to restore the drive in its entirety.

You have two ways to back up an entire drive so that you can re­­store even Windows: cloning and imaging. Cloning involves transferring an exact copy of your main hard drive to another drive. To restore Windows, you can either clone in the other direction or physically swap the drives.

Some commonly used tools under this strategy, aside from Rebit, are Ghost, Macrium Reflect, and True Image. Making additional image backups every so often after installing a big application, say, or a service pack upgrade is wise. Or make one every three to six months. You don't need to keep them all; just the first one and the last one or two.

Strategy 6: Store Items for the Long Haul
With proper archiving, your photos, videos, and other digital memorabilia could last a long time. Archive your valuable files about once a year, saving them to long-lasting media manually. Make multiple copies of the backups, and check to confirm that you can read them on another computer.

Strategy 7: Back Up the Backup
You should never have only one copy of anything, including your backup. Multiple backups add to your protection. Additional copies of files should also be part of your regular, daily backup routine. If you follow more than one of the strategies above, you'll have multiple backups.

At easySERVICE™ Solutions we recommend you:

  1. Invest in redundant backup systems
  2. Establish a structured backup procedure to make copies of all critical data files, using software compatible with the operating system and applications
  3. Periodically test the backups to verify that data, especially databases and other critical files, are being backed up properly

Get in the backup habit, and you'll be glad you did. Avoid backing up, and you'll eventually regret it. If it’s too late and if your data is critical, make sure you choose Stellar Phoenix Solutions which can properly recover data from physically damaged drives. Even the simplest recovery attempts on a physically damaged drive could render your data unrecoverable. The first recovery attempt is always the best recovery attempt.

At easySERVICE™ Data Solutions, our engineers use the safest methods available to ensure your data is not lost from repeated recovery attempts. We have successfully recovered data from hundreds of thousands of drives with extreme physical and logical damage.