How safe is your data?

English: I took this picture.
Is your data backed-up, what are your options?

A few months ago I did a repair job on a nice little custom build rig which while getting on a bit was still perfectly good for browsing and office productivity. The machine was badly infected and combined with less than helpful install of Vista lead me to opt for a fresh install of Windows 7. While copying over all the data for I noticed a lot of image files coming down the USB cable. Having developed a nose for these things over the years I checked with the client on delivery of the now speedy rig what as to what was stored on the PC. It turned out to be an extensive collection of pictures of the client’s children. I asked about back-ups and got the reply that it was something she was planning to get around to, time permitting.

Fast forward six months and I was asked to spec for a laptop for same client. After a quick whizz round Misco and Ebuyer I was able to come up with a nice desktop replacement. I happened to ask about backing up the images and was told it still hadn’t happened but obviously it was something they needed to do. I left it at that.

My PC Bloke crystal ball (Capacitive screen and powered by Android, of course) showed a scene in about a year where the PC HDD failed. If it proved to be a problem with the MBR or Windows no problem, but if the drive completely failed then not only would it be beyond my talents but the cost of professional drive recovery would be a painful lesson in the benefits of keeping back-ups.

So why all the fuss? In simple terms, just how important is your data? Check your computer right now and add up all the following:

  • Word files
  • Excell files
  • PDFs
  • Images files (.jpg .png .tif .jpeg)
  • Video files (.avi .mp4 .mov . flv)
  • Sound files (.mp3 .ogg .3gp)

The chances are there are more of these than you realised. You could well have many gigabytes of information stored on your computer.

Now what would happen if your PC decided to die tomorrow?

In my home, all the files are backed up to Network Attached Storage which can be reached from any and all machines in the house, including the Android phones. Key files are also backed to MS Skydrive and Dropbox and some are saved to USB keys and DVDs. One DVD of very important image and document data lives at the home of a friend living a few miles away. While this kind of back up is probably PC Bloke more than the average user. But I have image files that only exist electronically and other data which if I lost would not be recoverable, hence the borderline paranoia and when it comes to not losing your data paranoia if probably no bad thing. But there are some simple precautions you can take to ensure your data is safe.

Once data is corrupt it’s lost unless you plan to pay literally hundreds of pounds to a professional data recovery company and even then they may fail. Even if you back-up your data, media can fail and let you down. Safe options may seen onerous and even over the top but once that data is gone the chances are you have lost it forever.  So how much time and money is caring for your data worth to you, that’s the first question you need to ask with that information you can plan your back up strategy.

In the next instalment I’ll walk you through the storage options, from CDs to your own home server.

The PC Bloke