Workstation Backup Solutions Pt. 1: Having One

In a world of ever increasing data, those of us who don’t backup our precious files are downright insane. I’ve had instances where I could have backed up my data, a failure/accidental deletion/unintended alteration occurred and I was kicking myself for a long time. The reality is, that backups sometimes seem difficult to perform on a regular basis, and effectively. But what I’m here to say is that even if your backup policy seemingly dry-heaves in comparison to other’s, it is still backing up something.

Sometimes, the difference between my desire to destroy my computer, or kiss it and whisper sweet binary to it has been the ability for me to retrieve past data. And that starts with, you guessed it, some sort of backup routine.

Now, if you’re Apple users and use Time Machine already, I loath you for your self-sustainability, and you can stop reading now (J/K). For those of us who regularly use Windows or Linux machines, and are strapped for cash and can’t afford expensive software, a simple secondary hard drive is the first step.

For the sake of simplicity, we will continue to discuss simple work/home computer backups, but if you really need a server backup schema, we can always sell you a solution. :)

With that shameless plug out of the way, let’s go over a few different drive options.

1. An internal hard drive, or an external USB option (I suggest a USB powered model as backup failures can occur if the hard drive power cable fails, or is inadvertently unplugged.)
2. A USB flash/jump drive.
3. A compact flash or other media card.

Depending on the type of data you’re backing up, the amount of time you want to retain it, and the depth of your wallet, these options should suffice for most backups.

An internal hard drive poses a lot of very beneficial characteristics. You wouldn’t need to worry necessarily about it unplugging, it is powered intrinsically, and you don’t have to look at it. An external hard drive has the benefit of being unplugged and moved around, but can then unfortunately be accidentally unplugged.

A flash drive and CF/Media card are quick and reliable options if you are just doing periodic snapshots, but eventually their read/write life-cycle will be met, and you run the risk of losing data or encountering data corruption more quickly due to hardware failure than you do with a good brand of hard drive. Also, for more than 16GB of data, most reliable brands get unreasonably expensive.

The simplest way to backup things is just to categorize your data, and pull it over to the hard drive. Creating folders with titles in date form will organize your data as well. The thing to remember is that at the onset of a backup routine, keep it simple. If pulling over files once a week is your routine, than stick to it and add components later on as necessary.

There are a few options for creating a routine if you can’t be at your computer at the same time every day. Windows has a backup routine in the Accessories area you can use, you can get tech-savvy and research how to code your own .bat script, or you can purchase a one-time fee software that allows you to setup routines as well. For Linux users, a script that runs a copy command of selected data to the secondary drive and is scheduled by a cron will work as well.

Ultimately, after you get started backing up your data, you will notice certain caveats to the backup process itself, mainly, data retention equaling too much space usage, local backups not saving your data in case of a fire/natural disaster/theft, and other encumbrances. At that point you’re ready to move onto the next level, and we can discuss that in the next article. But keep in mind, the first step in the journey of a thousand gigabytes starts with the backup of the first gigabyte. Knowing this, you will go far, my young padawan.

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