Computer Backup Procedures

by Bonnie Conrad

Any computer user who has lost valuable data knows how important it is to keep that data backed up properly. Hard drives rarely give a warning when they are about to crash, and a sudden hard drive failure could result in the loss of years' worth of irreplaceable data. From family photos to bank and business records, many people keep their entire lives on their PCs. With so much at stake, it is important to keep that data safe and sound.

External Hard Drive

One of the simplest ways to keep your data backed up is to invest in an external hard drive. As with so much computer technology, the prices of external hard drives have come down enormously over the past few years, putting these handy devices within the reach of many more computer owners. These days 500 GB external hard drives can be purchased for as little as $100--a small price to pay for the peace of mind it can provide. External hard drives are available at brick-and-mortar electronics stores like Best Buy, office supply providers like Office Max and many online retailers. Hooking up an external hard drive is easy as well. Most modern drives include a USB interface; you can simply plug the cord into an available USB port and instantly transfer files. The external hard drive should automatically appear under a new drive letter, and moving files is as easy as opening Windows Explorer and copying files from one drive letter to another.

Online Backup

Online backups provide another level of protection for computer users, and in many ways an online backup is even more secure. Backing up data to a remote location certainly provides greater protection from theft. After all, if a burglar breaks in, he is likely to make off with the external hard drive as well as the computer itself. There are a number of players in the online backup market, but Carbonite is one of the best known companies in this space (see Resources). The cost of this data protection is just over $50 a year, making an online backup an excellent and very cost-effective option.

Computer Tape

Computer tapes provide an excellent way to back up a great deal of data quickly and easily. Many large corporations back up their network servers to tapes, and some home users back up their systems this way as well. When choosing backup tapes and tape drives, it is important to look at the speed of the drive, since that speed determines how long it will take to complete the backup. If the tape drive is too slow, the backup may not finish in time, and that could cause the computer or the network to be sluggish as files are being backed up. It is also important to look at the capacity of the tapes themselves. Most computer tapes will list both a compressed and an uncompressed storage capacity, so it is important to determine if the storage capacity will be sufficient. Compressing the data prior to backup can save tapes, but restoring the files can be more complicated as well. It is important to balance the cost of the tapes against the complexity of the backup and restore procedures.

Network PC

With network equipment so cheap, many computer owners are using their old equipment to set up powerful home networks. If you have an old PC at home, it may make sense to add a large-capacity hard drive to it, attach it to the network and use that PC as your very own backup storage server. Backing up your data to your own network is often the fastest and most reliable way to keep your data secure, and with the costs of home networks dropping, it may be the most affordable option as well.


If your PC has a DVD recorder, you may want to back up your vital files to DVD. The prices of blank DVDs have been dropping for years, and with each DVD holding nearly 5 GB of data, it is easy to back up those critical files in a flash. Just keep those DVDs in a safe place, and back up your data often. If your data changes often, you may want to add a secondary backup method, like backing up automatically to Carbonite or copying those frequently changing files to an external hard drive.

About the Author

Based in Pennsylvania, Bonnie Conrad has been working as a professional freelance writer since 2003. Her work can be seen on Credit Factor, Constant Content and a number of other websites. Conrad also works full-time as a computer technician and loves to write about a number of technician topics. She studied computer technology and business administration at Harrisburg Area Community College.