So what do you do when you have so much stuff on your computer that it becomes difficult, if not impossible, to back up whole thing on a regular basis? You know that you must perform backups (the world is full of dangers to your computer and it's valuable data), but it's just become technically impracticable simply due to volume of data.
Don't believe for a second that this problem is unique to home user. At work I manage a staff of computer people which is responsible for about 500 gigabytes of data. In fact, we expect our data size to exceed a terabyte (1,000 gigabytes) before too long! Some of my peers now manage sites which exceed 60 terabytes! Imagine how difficult it is to come up with a backup solution to databases of those sizes!
What I decided to do for my home computer system is simple. I separated my backup tasks into small, manageable pieces. These include: being prepared to recover entire system in event of a catastrophic failure.
- being able to restore each individual application (program), which is useful not only in event of a system failure, but also if application itself becomes unusable.
- backing up my own personal data files on a regular basis.
- understanding location of special data such as desktop themes, outlook stationary and ICQ skins so that I can back them up regularly.
- Ensuring that all of websites that I manage are backed up to my own hard drive regularly.
- keeping copies of this data in a second location in event of a complete loss (such as fire or earthquake).
Before you can start any of these backup procedures, however, you must figure out what device are you going to use as a backup media. You have several choices.
Floppy disks - In days long past, we all used floppy disks as our backup media. This was in ancient times (5 to 20 years ago), when volume of data was much less. Floppy disks are not a good choice for backups for following reasons:
- They are expensive (when figured on dollars per megabyte)
- They are small (slightly over 1 megabyte)
- They don't last long (I've found five years is about maximum amount of time).
ZIP or Jazz disks - You can use a device known as a zip drive to perform your backups. Zip disks were originally 100 megabytes in size, and have since been upgraded to 250 megabytes. Jazz drives went from 1 gigabyte to 2 gigabytes. I am sure that larger sizes will be released as years go by.
At first glance, this seems like a real solution to media problem. However, I have found several problems which make it less than desirable.
- I have found that zip and jazz disks do not last for a long time. I have attempted to restore data from zip disks which are over 2 years old and have discovered an alarming number of data errors.
- There have been may reports in news of problems with these products. In fact, Iomega has been target of at least one class action suit for drive failures.
- Zip and Jazz drives are extremely slow.
- The media (disks) are extraordinarily expensive.
Personally, I have had so many problems with these products that I would not recommend them to anyone - even my worst enemy. You must be able to depend upon your backups - otherwise, why do them at all?
Magnetic Tape - One of most difficult choices. Magnetic tape certainly has ability to back up large amount of data, but it tends to be slow and requires specialized software to access. Out of all of formats, I would be least likely to recommend magnetic tape.