All too often someone has brought me a computer that has crashed and then told me that they don’t have a current backup, or sometimes no backup of their data at all. Years of family pictures, important financial documents, things that really cannot be replaced, potentially lost. The thing about computers and digital storage is that they can always fail. In the case of most hard drives, the drives are mechanical in nature and will ALWAYS FAIL. It is not a question of if, just a matter of when – just like Hurricanes here in Pensacola FL. Even with new SSD drives that have no moving parts, there is still a chance of data loss due to power surge, or electronic failures.
When a drive fails, it doesn’t neccessarily mean that all is lost. There are a few options depending on what has happened. If the drive electronics still work and the drive can be recognized by another computer it is often possible to do a software data recovery – using specialized software to rebuild and retrieve the data from the drive. If the electronics don’t work, or the drive is physically damaged (the terrible click of death is often a common sign of physical failure), the only option at that point is to send the drive to a data recovery service. These services are quite expensive as the drives need to be rebuilt which can only be done in a ‘clean room’. One important thing to note when considering data recovery options, especially software recovery options: if the drive is ‘on the edge’ of failure, trying to retrieve data can often push it over the edge and cause complete failure, so before you decide to have someone try to do a software recovery, make sure you understand the risks. If the data is critical, I highly recommend a trusted, albeit expensive, data recovery service (it is better to pay a bit more than take a chance on losing everything).
Of course, the above costs of trying to recover data can all be avoided by ensuring proper backups. There are many options available, including backing up to one time media such as CD or DVD (be aware the both CDs and DVDs deteriorate over time), backing up to an external hard drive (external drives are just as prone to failure as internal drives), backing up to a flash drive (flash drives can easily break or be wiped by magnets etc), or in my opinion the best option for most: online backup which stores your data securely on an offsite server. In reality the best backup solution would involve a combination of the above. With Windows 7, you can easily create a system image of your entire hard drive and store it on an external drive, this can even be set to be done automatically on a schedule. In case of drive failure, all you then need to do is pop in a new drive and restore the image. This will restore everything, Windows, Programs, files. Using online backup for critical files in addition to having a on-site backup is advisable because this gives you extra protection in case of things like fires, lightning strikes, or shhhh hurricanes.
The latest crop of online backup solutions include many that are extrememly easy to use and basically allow you to set it and forget it. This usually involves selecting the folders you want to back up, and then anything that is added or changed in those folders is automatically backed up either continuously or on a schedule. There are few online backup services such as iDrive which offer a small amount (usually 2-5 GB or so) of free online storage, however in today’s world, even 5 GB can easily be used up quite quickly. One of the best valued and easiest ones to use that I have found is Carbonite (see link below for a free trial). For less than $5 a month, they offer basically unlimited backup with an easy to use and install program (it is not advised to backup super huge files like movies or such, nor will such files be automatically backed up). Having online backup allows you peace of mind with the ability to restore your files from anywhere with internet access, so even if you lose your entire computer, your data is still safe.
I highly recommend setting up some kind of backup solution if you don’t have one, and doing it today, right now, because one of the most common things I have heard from people is that they meant to backup, but just forgot to. Most people have things like family photos, important documents, emails etc on their computers that are the only copies they have and losing them would really suck. It just makes sense to backup now rather than take the chance and end up having to pay big $$ for a data recovery service when your computer crashes.
If you find yourself in the situation of having a computer crash, visit Pensacola Computers for computer service and computer repair here in Pensacola FL – our advice is always free!