When my external HD blown up taken down all my son's and our pictures and realized that I have deleted original copies from my hard drive just to install Windows 2003 Server, I have then understood the importance of taking regular backups and not deleting the originals.

I am still on the look out for the best practice for my own purposes but at least manage to get enough WAF to spend dollars on a ReadyNas NV+ and get a solid storage device first. You may get an HD enclosure and a new HD (please please please do not use old HDs for backup, that is what I did and lost, learn from my lesson) or burn the data on DVDs depending on the size of data. Even a USB stick with enough size to keep your personal data will do. Keep one of these outside in a bank safe or at your parents place.

First thing first, HDs have around 20.000 hours or around 5 years of life time. Check these specifications with the manufacturer and set a reminder at rememberthemilk.com to buy new hard drives. Most HDs with SMART capability will tell you how many hours they were on the power.

Once you have a solid storage device, now you need a means of backing up your data onto this device regularly and safely. Luckily most network attached storage devices provide a solution like one touch backup, Rsync, file or folder sync etc. Or you can go ballistic and buy Norton Ghost and set it and forget it. Or maybe you can use Windows Backup Services to do the job, or a scheduled batch file to copy over the files even will do the job.

Restore At Least Once

One thing for sure; you need to at least try to restore once to see if it is actually working. Trying this as important as taking backups. If it is not restoring properly, what is the point of taking backups. After you take a full backup, try restoring it for the love of God, and see all your personal data in one place still accessible and visible. Do a head count for your files, open some of them and make sure they are not corrupt or ghost files. Once you pass this step you can be sure that your backups are valid.

Regularity

You may schedule your backup scripts, or take a backup when there is change in the watched folders and files. It totally depends on how you use your computer and what kind of data you have. You can take it every night, every week, every hour; you decide. Once you make a decision, don't stick with it, keep it running for a while and ask the question: if something go bad, how many hours/days/weeks of data I will be loosing and change your strategy immediately. Continues improvement is necessary on the basis of your backup strategy.

First Backups are Always Painfull

First time backups (depending on the size of your data) are always painfull. Runs longer, looks like nothing is happening, makes you irritating that you can not use your computer to accept some of the game requests on Facebook... Stick with it and have patience. This is your life, important data has to be backed up and you didn't do this because it takes time and your wife is angry with you that you are putting this task off for a while. Get a cup of tea and some magazines and watch the data flowing down to your storage device. You will be doing this for the first time; of course it will take time but the second run will be easier.

On my next entry, I will be explaining what I am doing for my family backup strategy.

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Hi, my name is Gurkan Yeniceri. I am a software engineer with 8 years of experience in both public and private sectors. I have been generally writing about software engineering and Microsoft technologies since March 2005 on this site.
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