Thursday, July 8, 2010

Your Hard Drive Will CRASH!

It's not a matter of if but a matter of when. So what can you do. To avoid data loss from a hard disk crash I'm personally endorsing Carbonite. It's a great system that automatically backs up your files over the internet to your own secure location. What I like about carbonite over other services is: unlimited space, clear indication about what is backed up and what isn't, it's all automatic. The big negative to the service is how to restore your data after a crash. I advise, after you get your machine up and running again, call their service department and they'll walk you through getting your files back. Don't try it on your own.

I know most people are thinking, “I'm not gonna pay $55/year per computer, I'll just spend $80 on a USB hard drive and that'll be fine.” USB hard drives have the same problems that the hard drive in your computer has. They crash. USB drives are especially problematic because they are frequently moved around, increasing the chance for failure. A service like carbonite has the added bonus of being automatic and out of your house. If anything happens to your house or to that USB drive all your data is gone. Your income taxes that you filed electronically, your photos, all your documents that you never got around to putting on google docs, gone. If you really want to have a home solution I would recommend a Network Attached Storage unit.

NAS are very simple file servers. I prefer the one made by QNAP because it can also work as a web server, ftp server and media server. NAS are great because they attach to your home network, you leave them on all the time, you never need to move it from computer to computer, and any computer in your house can get to it, including your networked XBOX or PlayStation 3. If you plan to back up your files to a NAS make sure you get one that has at least two hard drives in it that are mirrored in a RAID 1 configuration for two drives, or a RAID 5 configuration if you have four or more drives. I realize all these terms sound scary, but the great thing about the QNAP is it's very easy to setup.

None of these options are as cheap or as fast as the portable USB hard drive, but they are vastly more reliable, and definitely cheaper than a data recovery service. What you really need to ask yourself is, “How much is my data worth to me?”

I'll be posting every now and then to remind you to back up your data. Here's to safe computing.

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