A Lesson In Backup: Taking Care Of Your Data

The hard disk market is booming thanks to steadily climbing drive capacities. And not just in the professional market segment, either. This phenomenon is probably best described using the words “big, fast, and cheap.” At the consumer level, a continuing trend is for users to add a second, third, or fourth hard disk to their PCs. For all such additions, portable external drives remain the most popular choice.

One reason for this ringing success comes from such a drive's ability to provide more storage capacity to all users with simple external connections, without requiring any technical knowledge for their installation and use. Most often, this means users will employ USB 2.0 to connect drives to their PCs. USB 2.0 has, in fact, become a de facto standard, offering adequate performance for nearly all applications. And in many cases, it doesn’t even require users to plug in through an external power supply to a wall socket. It doesn’t get much simpler than that.

Fast and Flexible Enough for Everyday Use

External portable hard disks are not only simple to use, but users can also move them around to multiple computers. This makes it much easier to exchange large files with friends and family, even when USB 2.0 imposes a performance bottleneck on the file transfers involved. And even this bottleneck will soon be a thing of the past, with USB 3.0 on its way into the mass market (it’s over 10 times faster than USB 2.0, with a maximum data rate of 5.0 Gb/s for 3.0 vs. 480 Mb/s for 2.0).

Shrinking Prices, Improved Reliability

Consumers are cashing in on high demand for storage devices, thanks to sinking prices. If you buy a Hitachi Deskstar 7K1000.B now, you’ll pay about $0.0722 per gigabyte of storage. Along with dropping prices, technical advances and more efficient production processes mean that reliability for modern hard disks continues to improve under normal use.

The Consumer's Backup Medium of Choice

High reliability is not the same thing as an absolute guarantee against any and all drive defects, however. That’s why users should pay special attention to good file system organization and perform regular backups of important files, to fend off data losses and system woes. In fact, we put Samsung’s Story Station to work for this story for this very purpose, but you could use any similar external drive from another vendor in the same way.

Marcel Binder
  • truehighroller
    I just had an External Hard Drive die on me. The drive had all of our family pictures from the last 4 1/2 years on it.

    I managed to get, getbackdata to work for me but, it took 48 hrs for it to read the data and make an image of it on to a new hard drive that I bought "internal".

    I instantly after managing to get them back, put them on a DVD as well. Could of cost us a $1000 if I didn't know what I was doing.
  • Too many people make that mistake... store their files on an external HD and think they are 'backed up'.
    They are only backed up if another, duplicate copy is held somewhere separate to the first copy. Keeping photos *only* on an external drive is not being backed-up!
    You were lucky to get them back... far to many people don't back up and learn the hard way...and unfortunately, usually there's no prior warning of when a drive fails.
  • feraltoad
    Mozy or Carbonite are cheap right now...
  • zodiacfml
    yeah. same with the guy above, i have more than 4 years of pics and vids but i don't have an external or network drive, just uploaded them online.
  • My backup solution? Using Ghost 2003, I backup my hard drive to a image file that is stored on a 1 TB drive. Then, I ghost the entire 1 TB drive over to another 1 TB which is then stored off-site.
  • pbrigido
    I have thought about purchasing a 32GB cheap MLC SSD to use as a backup for pictures to eliminate the mechanical failure aspect of a conventional HD. I wonder how long a SSD can be without power before the memory cells lose their information.
  • truehighroller
    TorchWoodMy backup solution? Using Ghost 2003, I backup my hard drive to a image file that is stored on a 1 TB drive. Then, I ghost the entire 1 TB drive over to another 1 TB which is then stored off-site.

    As long as it is stored on a Raid 1 or 0+1, 5 , 10 then you should be ok. The drive that crashed on me had an image of an install on it as well and all the files "pictures" were part of that image. Now I have a recent copy of everything on a DVD as well.
  • Shadow703793
    It's good to have an External USB/eSATA drive for back ups but those drives should also be backed up to a more "permanent" storage solution such as DVD or even tape (Yes, I know, it's old school). The best method of backing up critical files (such as a very important CAD file for a product, PhD Thesis,etc) should be backed up online. The best free online back up solution is to create a Gmail account and use GmailFS. For more info see: http://www.viksoe.dk/code/gmail.htm
    DL here: http://www.softpedia.com/progDownload/GMail-Drive-shell-extension-Download-15944.html

    That's what I use. With ~7GB worth of space, it's enough to back up important files.
  • MU_Engineer
    I am a little surprised that this article was on a geek-oriented website like THG. I was hoping to see something like setting up a RAID NAS or a home server and then automating the backup process. I mean, wasn't expecting to see anything significantly complex like setting up a headless server, writing a shell script to sort and move files by file type, and then setting up an automated differential backup system to run on a schedule. But come on, the article was just how to plug in a external USB hard drive, sort some files with the Vista GUI and manually run a couple of GUI backup tools.
  • Katsushiro
    I too was disappointed with the lack of techyness in this article. I don't recall a single mention of a RAID solution. And I didn't see anything that could help me; I have a 160GB raptor and a 500GB media drive that I want to automatically mirror/backup both to a 750GB drive.