We're back with our second Ask the Readers question, a series where we solicit input from readers like you on a topic. We'll publish the results of last week's question shortly. To participate, post your answers in the comments for this post. We'll post a summary of your responses later on.
This week, we want to know how you back up important data. There's many ways to safeguard against the loss of data, from external drives and redundant storage to off-site services like Dropbox or Carbonite. What do you find is the solution or solutions that work best for you? Do you back up everything, just important files, or nothing at all? Is your current back up solutions accessible or meeting your needs? Tell us all about your methods for backing up files in the comments.
I just set up the Windows7 backup to initially do so on my C drive but we're setting up a machine on our home network exclusively for backups so will move the backup to that machine once ready. The Windows7 backup was easy to set up and change. Spouse uses Carbnite but I'm cheap. :>
altosop Monday, 14-Feb-2011 6:03 PM ET:
I have a ton of flash drives, ranging from 1gb to 32gb, plus a 500gb and a 1tb Western Digital My Passport Essentials portable hard drive. I also use Dropbox, but mainly for the purpose of accessing and editing certain files on multiple computers.
mikesn Monday, 14-Feb-2011 6:31 PM ET:
I use Dropbox to back up my materials. To the best of my knowledge, both the web interface and the desktop client are both fully accessible. The Iphone app is also accessible. I back up all of my own documents, even documents that one might consider to be confidential. However, I do NOT use Dropbox to back up attorney work product or a client's confidential documents.
C47 Monday, 14-Feb-2011 10:40 PM ET:
My spouse and I backup our data various ways. We have several USB drives, a portable 1TB external hard drive, a laptop mainly used for backup purposes, and we also use Dropbox for temporary backup of non-sensitive data. I backup any program files, music, pictures, and other important documents.
Davy Tuesday, 15-Feb-2011 05:39 AM ET:
I use external storage media (currently a 640GB Seagate FreeAgent) for my backups. My tool of choice, for Windows, is Microsoft's SyncToy. It is a nice allround solution that is perhaps not the most advanced one out there, but it does what I expect of it, i.e. synchronizing my entire data-drive with an external drive. I don't know for sure if all its controls are accessible through the keyboard, I use my braille display to navigate the application window, and that works great. Because of the risk of keeping your backup in the same physical location as the source, I also backup the relatively small data to an online hosting provider. By small data I mean important documents, source code, databases, and so on. Thanks to USB-On-The-Go I've not yet been in a situation where I had to make an online copy of some data to access it on multiple devices.
darknexus Tuesday, 15-Feb-2011 09:55 AM ET:
It depends on what, exactly, I'm backing up. For sensitive things I've written down, I use a truecrypt volume on an external medium. For most other things, I've got rsync doing its job regularly. The nice thing about this is that both methods are cross-platform, so it doesn't matter if I need to get at my data on Windows, Linux, or Mac. I only use services like Dropbox for sharing files with others. Bottom line for cloud back up is this: if you don't want anyone else to see it, don't even put it on the cloud in the first place.
emerson Tuesday, 15-Feb-2011 10:26 AM ET:
All my personal data goes onto external drives; I even copy my address book, podcast links, and Internet Explorer favorites folder. I have two 1TB Western Digital My Book drives. The first has my data, and the second is the backup drive for the first. I still use Windows XP and use Synchromagic; it's older software that has always worked for me. When I move to a new operating system I will need to find an equivalent. I like synchromagic because I can do incremental backups, which means that the backup software determines what has been modified, removed or added, and takes appropriate action on those files, leaving the others alone. True, when the c: drive crashes, I have to rebuild it, but that's second nature to me. At least I'm assured that my personal data, music, spoken-word MP3 files, books, etc. are still intact. This method or a variation of it has worked well for me since the DOS days.
jjs Tuesday, 15-Feb-2011 10:34 AM ET:
I backup approximately weekly to an external 1 tb hard drive using Windows Backup. I realize though that It would be good to have the data off-site, and I may look into that.
stivers_t Tuesday, 15-Feb-2011 11:46 AM ET:
I have used Carbonite for the last year and just renewed. With about 350 gb of stuff to back up its about the only cloud solution that has unlimited storage. I still have a spare 500 gb drive that I back up to with synctoy when I think about it, but its that when I think about it part that makes Carbonite appealing to me.
Sun Sounds of Arizona Tuesday, 15-Feb-2011 11:49 AM ET:
I back up all my data every couple of weeks to my employer's server which is itself backed up every night to tape I think. I also back up personal data to a good old fashioned 3.5 inch floppy. They are cheap, as are the external drives, and for documents and such, they actually hold a lot. I have a diskette or two labeled for every year going back for almost 20 years. The back-up isn't as much a problem as finding the software on the really old files that will enable me to access the backed files. I also back my Braille Lite files to both the server and a floppy. I back photographs to a flash drive. I don't bother to back up audio nor do I back up executable software.
faggotlicker Tuesday, 15-Feb-2011 12:26 PM ET:
I have a Linux box that I use for tinkering as well as a file server. I use rsync on my main machine, a Mac, to backup specific files and folders such as my documents, music, and some other stuff. Time Machine is a nice, set it and forget it option which I may use some day, but for now, I’m fine.
dvm975 Tuesday, 15-Feb-2011 4:06 PM ET:
I have three external hard drives to which I have copied all our family photos, DVDS, and MP3s. One problem I'm having is that when I copy my Excel and Word 2007 files to those drives, using Windows XP Pro, I end up with 1kb shortcut files on the external drives, but the files themselves are not there. Does anyone have a solution?
jaybird Tuesday, 15-Feb-2011 5:01 PM ET:
We have several backup methods. For our large music collection, we have it on several hard drives, both internal and external, throughout our house, and also at an off-site location. As for other stuff, I back up some personal data to Dropbox. I also use a program called Image for Linux to back up my entire hard drive, so if it crashes, it can be restored with no fuss. Image for Linux is a bootable CD which has the Speakup screen reader. My computer still has a serial port, and I use a DECtalk Express. I have not investigated whether this solution would work with a USB to serial adaptor on computers without serial ports.
ariy Wednesday, 16-Feb-2011 08:56 AM ET:
I use SyncBack SE to make local backups to a NAS drive and Carbonite to make off-site backups. Both are reasonably accessible.
Kelly Wednesday, 16-Feb-2011 10:33 AM ET:
I use a program called Smart Sync Pro to backup various folders on an hourly, weekly or daily basis, depending on the data and its importance. For example, the “My Documents” folder is backed up hourly while audio production projects, IE Favorites, and downloaded software is backed up daily. Downloaded audio files and other downloads, including books from NLS, RFB&D and Bookshare are backed up weekly. I use a 500 GB external hard drive. I used to have an additional back up on CD for a third medium and for off site purposes. I haven’t decided to use a cloud-based backup or use another hard drive for off site backups. The hassle with the hard drive is moving the drive back and forth. I don’t like the loss of control I could have with a cloud-based solution. I had a Unix shell account once and the owners of the ISP would get upset every so often about how many files I had on their system. Their e-mails and specifically their actions were unpleasant. SmartSync Pro is mostly accessible. I need sighted help to initially select a folder to backup. I could switch, but it was the most accessible backup program I found with the most features 10 years ago when I went looking for a solution.
DebeeArmstrong Wednesday, 16-Feb-2011 10:40 AM ET:
In addition to the above suggestions, I'd like to note something not yet mentioned. It is important to go through your often-used programs to see if you can back up their settings. For example, Windows XP has the Save My Settings Wizard under Programs-Accessories-System Tools. Office 2003 has the File And Settings Transfer Wizard. With JAWS you can back up your personal settings. Many Wi-fi utilities let you export profiles with your passwords (encrypted of course) so you can easily restore them if you need to reformat your drive. Save all these settings to an external drive, another PC or your online off-site backup solution. This will save you hours and you won't be reconfiguring everything from scratch.
Jerry Weichbrodt Tuesday, 22-Feb-2011 09:59 AM ET:
On one computer, an XP machine, I use a batch file to perform an automated copy of documents and program settings to an external USB drive. Our other computer runs Windows 7 (following a recent upgrade from Vista). I'm not positive what regimen I'll settle on for the Windows 7 machine, but I'm impressed with the Windows 7 backup utility that came as part of Windows. I may do redundant backups with my batch file method along with the Windows 7 backup program and then perhaps just move to Windows 7's backup program once I develop some confidence that the backup is reasonably comprehensive.
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J.J. Meddaugh is an experienced technology writer and computer enthusiast. He is a graduate of Western Michigan University with a major in telecommunications management and a minor in business. When not writing for Blind Bargains, he enjoys travel, playing the keyboard, and meeting new people.