If you had ever worked in IT on mainframe computer systems, then you would have had several professional best practice rules and lessons drummed into your head, often based on the hard-won lessons of other peoples' experiences. One of them was sure to have been: carry out data backups of your work data on a regular basis. The only time that you will realise exactly how valuable and important this rule is will be when you have a disk crash or similar, by which time it will be too late to help yourself if you have not carried out any backups.
Because the majority of laptop/PC users are not professional IT workers, they may not know any better. Those that are professional IT workers often:
- have not been trained as professionals
- may be rather slack in their work practices in any event
- may have been meaning to get a round tuit
Data backup is actually quite a simple process, though rigorous double-checking and spring-cleaning the work data and its backups can be tedious and could consume quite a bit of time. Fortunately, such spring-cleaning, though useful in conserving storage space, is not mandatory. You need 2 things to make backups possible:
- A portable backup device.
- A system (software) to carry out the backups in an automated manner.
- Forget tapes of any sort - not only are they expensive and not portable, but they are also unreliable in the recovery.
- Avoid using CD-ROMs, unless your backup data really is minimal - they are too slow and not easily/safely portable.
- Insist on using USB or Firewire (for faster data transfer) plug'n play portable or semi-portable hard drives. From experience - having tried CD-ROMS, ZIP drives, etc. - I recommend the use of 2.5 inch profile laptop drives in a pocket-sized (i.e., portable) metal case. These devices are robust, cheap, reliable and fast, and can hold large volumes of data - e.g., typically 120+GB, which are likely to serve most users' needs.
- Go for something that is flexible and that enables you to automate and schedule backups on a regular basis. I would recommend that you try one of the many freeware and shareware products in the market. I personally have used Handy Backup since 1999, since reading reviews of it in computer magazines and on web sites. It is a brilliant and relatively inexpensive product.
- Is it worth it? For cost-justification, the expense of doing backups needs to be compared to the expense, inconvenience, and loss of business/time in attempting to recover from a data loss if you have not done backups.