Backing up your computer now will save you pain later

By Mark Daughters

Interlaced Inc.

Computers are amazing. Think of how much stuff is in your computer right now. Thousands of pictures, music tracks, videos, contacts, calendars, documents, spreadsheets, emails, and probably, a lot more. To store that in the physical world would fill a ton of photo albums, rolodexes, CD/DVD shelves, and file cabinets.

A lot of my clients have a hard time letting go of those physical hard copies. To them it is scary to shrink all of this data into a box the size of a notepad, and toss the “real thing.” They take comfort that they can actually feel and know that their memories are safe, just by seeing that the file cabinet or photo album is there. And they have a point.

Without the proper steps, your data can randomly disappear in the blink of an eye.

Your computer contains a small part called the hard drive. On laptops it is smaller than a deck of cards. This tiny thing holds everything. Inside there is a disk that spins around and a small needle moves around to read the data. These work magnetically, not using grooves, like a record player, but the idea is the same. Since this is a mechanical part, at some point it will fail.

Let me restate that. Every hard drive, ever built, in any device, Mac, PC, desktop, laptop, iPod, will fail. Even the newer computers with the “solid state drives” or SSD (Techno speak for “no moving parts.”) are not infallible. They have a limited amount of times data can be written or read from. When this happens (not if), all the data on the drive will be inaccessible.

Stop printing out everything in a panic. You can stop this data Armageddon from happening, and it is quite easy. All you need is a copy of your data in another place. These days there are plenty of ways to accomplish this with minimal effort on your part.

With every Mac sold today, Time Machine is included. Time Machine is the easiest, and most powerful way to backup your data. All it requires is an external hard drive. (Around $100.) Once it is setup, your Mac will backup every hour. It is smart; it only backs up what has changed from the last backed up. It is fast; after the first backup, it only takes a few minutes. And it is easy to use. If your computerʼs hard drive dies, when your Mac is repaired or replaced, it asks if you have a Time Machine backup. Just plug in your drive and in an hour or so your computer looks exactly like it did the last time it backed up.

Itʼs that easy.

There are other options as well. You can get a wireless version of the external drive so you donʼt need to keep your computer plugged into the backup at all times. There are backup utilities that work for PCs or older Macs, as well as off-site backup solutions that provide an extra layer of security. For instance, if your home is robbed or is burned down, your computer and its backup might be gone. An off-site backup will ensure your data is safe.

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