A Lesson In Backup: Taking Care Of Your Data

Backing Up Is Good To Do

Besides enabling an easy means for extending storage capacity, external hard disks also offer consumers an optimal medium upon which to back up large file collections from desktop and notebook PCs. As the reliability of hard disks continues to improve and buyers not only gain massive amounts of storage capacity at a great unit cost per gigabyte, they also often obtain useful software as an added bonus.

Backing Up with Bundled or Built-in Windows Software

In most cases, bundled software is adequate to secure a backup of important files that is inaccessible to unauthorized users. Those who want to skip the bundled software can turn to Windows Vista’s built-in Backup and Restore utility instead for a simple and capable no-frills backup solution. Those who are still using Windows 2000 or Windows XP can turn to Robocopy, which is available for free as part of the Windows Server 2003 Resource Kit Tools. To simplify its use, a GUI add-on is available, which lets users not wise to the ways or might of the command line to exploit its exceptional power safely and easily.

USB 2.0: Performance Bottleneck, but Still Fast Enough

Backing up to an external hard disk always takes a significant amount of time, simply because most such devices are attached to computers via USB 2.0. By today’s standards, this aging interface imposes somewhat of a bottleneck when it comes to massive file transfers, but remains adequate for backups. While both eSATA and FireWire 800 interfaces do offer higher file transfer rates, neither is universally available on all desktop or notebook PCs. By comparison, USB 2.0 is ubiquitous and is available to connect an external hard disk to nearly every computer known to man. Nevertheless, those with eSATA or FireWire 800 at their disposal will definitely want to use those interfaces for backups instead.

Samsung Story Station

Samsung appreciates the wide availability of USB 2.0 and uses it to provide connectivity for its Story Station. This makes good business sense because most users only have USB ports on their machines anyway, and Samsung can hold down costs by omitting other, more expensive interfaces.

The retro design of the Story Station calls to mind electronic devices from an earlier era, which adds to its appeal. You’ll have to decide for yourself whether or not you like the adjustable LED activity indicator, which can go from bright to dark depending on where you set it (though you can’t turn it off completely). 

For file transfer rates, the Story Station delivers typical performance for a USB 2.0 device. It also offers buyers a collection of software that includes backup and protection tools, which is typical for devices in this category.

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.