Back That Thing Up!

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It happens more often than you think: hard drive failure, corrupted RAM, broken screen, logic board failure. It is all pretty awful and the end result is the same. Your computer is unusable and your data is therefore unreachable, and all you can do is plant your palm on your face, rampage around the room, cry a little and/or hang your head in despair for a little bit. It seems horrific and most people just don’t think that it will happen to you, but it will . . . one day. So don’t wait for it to happen, do something about it. Be proactive and start back in your computer up. I’m not just talking about students and teachers here – I’m talking about everyone. Don’t let Tommy Boy give you tech advice (see above).

The good news is that there are a lot of options out there for you to back up and some are free. So let’s get to it.

Pick and chose
If you’re looking for a right now solution then I’ve got one for you and chances are you probably already have access to it and don’t even know it yet. If you have a Gmail account or a Hotmail account then you’re in luck. You can use Google and Microsoft’s respective online storage drive already! That’s right, each of those will give you 30 GB of online storage and while there are some limitations to each (no copyrighted materials, no pornography and the such) it is a great way to quickly back up your important files for school or otherwise. You just need to sign into to it and then drag your files over.

Both will accept just about any file type (even if it can’t open it) and of course once they are there It is easy as pie to share those files with your friends, colleagues or teachers. I’ll write a more detailed guide later on but all you need to do is sign into your email and then go to the respective sites below. In fact, both let you create documents right inside these environments so check them out.

Another similar option is Dropbox and SugarSync (there are others too). They give you a bit more control of what you can upload and sport some other cool features.
This is probably the quickest way for you to back up your important data. The downside is that if you have a lot of files it can be a bit of work to keep everything organized. Also, these options are just online so you do need an Internet connection.

Back it all up
While the above option is great for your documents and individual files when you start factoring in music, photos and videos that 30GB fills up really fast and of course there is software. While most software will let you re-download it again for free, it is a pain. There is also some software companies that will require you to pay for the product again if a newer one is out (Microsoft does this), so it’s hard to backup all these products in your Google Drive or SkyDrive. So backing up on an external hard drive is probably your best option here. The question is how do you do that? Good news reader – There are a lot of options out there and I’ll cover some of the more popular ones.

If you have a Mac, then you need to check out Time Machine. It is already installed on your computer and works pretty well. You need to purchase a hard drive the same size or larger than your hard drive, plug it into your Mac. It will ask if you want to use it as a Time Machine backup – you say yes and that’s it! Your music, photos, software, documents – all backed up. To read all the nitty gritty details check them out from Apple’s own site here. This is what I use and it has saved me on more than one occasion.

Windows also has its own built in back up utility as well called File History. While I use a Mac, I’ve heard this system works just fine and is reliable.

While these two are good, they don’t give you a lot of options or control. It just backs up. So if you’re looking for a little more control there are plenty of options out there. One of the more popular ones is CrashPlan from Code42. CrashPlan is completely free works with Windows and Macs and is quite easy. Now there are others out (a lot as a matter of fact) so I encourage you to search, try them out and find the one that works for you. Some give you tons of control while others are just straight forward and easy to use. To start your research just Google it. There will be no shortage of reviews, guides and advice out there.

One might ask, is it worth it to buy an external hard drive? I say yes – think of it as insurance. What if your computer does go kaputt. With a local back up you can quickly and easily restore your workspace and get back to work a lot sooner than having to download everything and recreate everything. Here is a conversation I had with a student the other day.

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Backing it up in the cloud
Having a back up locally is good but it’s always a good idea to have another one and what better place to back that up than online? Again there are plenty of choices out there. Two of the more popular sites are Carbonite and CrashPlan has an online solution too. Their not free but the price is usually very reasonable (around $5 per month). The downside is that it takes a bit of time to upload all that info and of course you need to be online to do this, but it is a great addition to have to that external hard drive.

The harsh reality
If your computer fails and you haven’t backed anything up it will ruin your entire frickin’ day and you’ll probably be a bit angry too, but make sure you direct that anger where it belongs: to yourself. Backing up is easy, affordable and there are plenty of options and different ways to do it and there is just no excuse not to. I have seen at least 6 different people this school year who have lost their data due to some type of computer failure this year and I am sure I will see more. In some cases we were able to recover some data but in others it was just gone and there was nothing anyone can do about it. That totally sucks. Don’t be caught in that position where years worth of work is gone.

Hopefully this little post will get you start backing up your data – remember it’s all up to you.

Patrick Cauley
www.thetechjonsey.com

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About Patrick Cauley

I teach middle school technology and love to play around with tech and teach students and colleagues alike. You can read my blog at www.itbabble.com
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