BitDepth 761 - December 14

Thinking of a gift? Helping someone to backup their data is a gift that ensures that someone won't lost their valuable information.
Peace of mind on Earth

Iomega’s eGo line of colourful, sleek drives. The rubber bumpers are removable to make a less protected but more streamlined device. Photograph courtesy Iomega.

By this point, if you haven’t identified the perfect gift for your technology loving special other, I’d like to suggest that while the everyone is busy wishing everyone else happiness, you might want to consider a gift destined to avert future sadness.
It’s not as flashy as an iPad or an Android phone, but anyone using a computer today should have a backup plan in place.

The need for a good backup multiplies for the many users who create work on a laptop, which is not only vulnerable to the mechanical and electronic failures of a modern computer, it’s also open to environmental factors like weather, coffee and theft.
The most common mistake that people make is to assume that because their computer is working today it’s likely to be working tomorrow. The other is to confuse a backup with a transfer. Data is only considered backed up when it exists functionally in two places. Anything less is simply a transfer of your files to another storage medium.

Fortunately, the manufacturers of hard drives have been busy thinking, not in the close personal way that I’ve considered your problem, but thinking nonetheless about exactly this issue. Most have made considerable strides in making backup options both more attractive and affordable.
A basic backup strategy essentially consists of an external storage medium, usually a hard drive, in a case with the right ports for connecting to the computer that it’s going to be used with.

Stylistic considerations aside, it’s important that the storage medium either match or exceed the size of the hard drive it’s backing up data from, particularly if creating a disk image is the backup method used.
Beyond that, buying an external hard drive, once a nuts and bolts matter of connections and speeds, is now very much a fashion choice for the casual computer user.

Today’s most popular breed of backup drives use the 2.5 inch drives designed for laptops and USB 2 connections that carry both data and power to devices packaged for sleekness and pocketability. Forget needing to have a backup drive with you, some of these devices look so good that you’ll want to carry them around.
I’m a shop for components and assemble them kind of guy, and there’s a wide range of preassembled solutions as well as components at my online shop of choice, Other World Computing.

For those with less of a sense of adventure and a distinct disinterest in fitting tiny screws into fussy openings, there are attractive options in Western Digital’s My Passport line, Iomega’s eGO drives and Seagate’s FreeAgent GoFlex drives. None of these drives costs more than US$150 and many useful configurations are available for less than US$100.
I leave it to you to figure out what the size of your beloved’s drive is, but a soft, cooing “So how big is your internal hard drive...really,” ought to do the trick.

Storage is only half of the story though. Leave a little room in your budget for software to run a good backup strategy. No drag and drop plan for backing up ever lasts. Good backup planning takes advantage of the calculating power of modern computers to identify and incrementally copy new and modified files and to schedule the process with minimal user intervention.
Backup strategies run to either automated backup of working folders for the organised user or full copies of the entire hard disk for folks who can never remember where they put anything.

Solutions can be as simple as Microsoft’s free SyncToy and as sophisticated as Acronis’ True Image, which makes an accurate copy of an entire hard drive and keeps it up to date.
Mac users have had a free solution ever since Leopard was released and while Time Machine doesn’t make bootable disks (you’ll need Carbon Copy Cloner for that) it’s a useful tool for incremental backups.

Love may have meant never having to say you’re sorry, in a digital age, it also means never having to say you’re sorry someone lost all their files.
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