The computer helper: Choose your backup strategy
By Jay Dougherty May 15, 2006, 7:38 GMT
Washington - There's a reason that so many backup solutions exist: Everyone's needs are different. Some want everything on their systems backed up - data, applications, operating system. Others just want to have their e-mail safe and secure. Yet others want a backup made of every file they create, immediately. Which solutions are best for each need? Read on for some answers.
Q: I know I should back up everything on my system, but the reality is that I'd be sunk only if I lost my e-mail. What's the best way to make sure my e-mail doesn't get lost if my hard drive crashes?
A: Attach an external hard drive to the computer on which you receive your e-mail, and invest in an e-mail specific backup program. It makes sense to have a backup of your e-mail separate from other types of backup, anyway, since having to restore your e-mail when the backup is contained in a system-wide backup file is both tedious and difficult. Plus an e-mail backup program will allow you easily to transfer your e-mail messages, addresses, and rules to another computer.
There are several good e-mail backup programs on the market today. All are inexpensive - generally less than 30 dollars - and most allow you to try the programs before you buy. Outlook Express Backup Genie (http://www.amicutilities.com/outlook-express-backup) seems to be for Outlook Express only but in fact will back up e-mail data from all of the popular e-mail clients today: Outlook, Outlook Express, Eudora, Opera, Netscape, and others.
AJ Systems' Eazy Backup (http://www.ajsystems.com/ezb.html) has been around a long time, and it does a good job of backing up and restoring Outlook, Outlook Express, Eudora, Thunderbird, Firefox, and other e-mail.
You can schedule either of these backup tools so that they run unattended as often as you'd like them to - at night or during your lunch, for instance.
Q: I want to be able to restore all of my data quickly in case my hard drive crashes. What's the easiest way to accomplish this?
A: Look at drive imaging programs rather than standard backup utilities, such as the one that comes for free with Windows XP. Standard backup programs will back up all of your data, but they won't be of much help to you if your hard drive crashes, since you'll still have to reinstall the operating system and the backup application before you can start restoring your data.
Imaging tools, on the other hand, create a 'snapshot' of the contents of your entire hard drive, operating system and all. The premier imaging tools on the market today are Acronis's True-Image, available in a 'home' edition (http://www.acronis.com/homecomputing/products/trueimage/) that's perfect for individuals and small businesses, and Symantec's Ghost.
True-Image has overtaken Ghost in popularity over the past year, thanks to its flexibility and speed. True-Image can backup your entire hard drive or just the files and folders you specify, and as part of the installation, it creates a rescue CD that you'll use to restore your system in the event of a hard drive failure. A new Snap Restore feature purportedly allows you to start working with your restored PC even before all of the data has been fully restored to the new hard drive or system.
Ghost (http://www.symantec.com/home_homeoffice/products/overview.jsp?pcid=b r&pvid=ghost10), now in version 10, performs largely the same tasks as True-Image but adds the ability to integrate with Maxtor's popular One-Touch external drives. With One-Touch, you simply press a button on the external drive to begin the backup process.
Q: The trouble I've always had with backups is that they're only as good as the last time you backed up. Is there a way that I can automatically create a duplicate of every file I save?
A: Creating two copies of every file you save is one of the main advantages of a technology known as RAID, short for Redundant Array of Independent Disks. There are several types of RAID in existence, designated as Level 0, Level 1, Level 2 and so on. Level 1 RAID is the kind used to create a duplicate set of data on separate disk drives.
Previously of interest primarily to businesses that required an ever-ready availability of data, RAID systems are also now being requested by - and sold to - individual computer users. Because implementing a RAID system is fairly complex, most individuals would be best served by allowing a computer professional or PC maker to build and configure a RAID-capable system.
Of course, a RAID Level 1 system requires twice the disk space that you would normally use to store your data, but as disk drives are very affordable these days, the cost is not an impediment to some.
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