Make a new years pledge to backup all your important IT data

If you only make one new year pledge with your IT, make it to keep everything important backed up whether in the cloud using dropbox or opencloud or an external hard drive.

It really is very important

Yet again today I had to help a friend who had lost eveything due to a hard disk failure. It was business work as well, which will cost him a lot of money to reproduce. Just stop and think how it would affect you tomorrow if that happened on your computer.

The thing to always remember is that every device that makes up your computer is born with a thing called an MTBF - Mean Time between failure.

It's basically the manufacturers idea of when that component will die. They are normally measured in years, but those years can pass very quickly. If you have a machine that is over three years old, then some of the components in it will be coming up to their MTBF.

The device that holds all your letters,pictures,music,documents,spreadsheets is the one that has the shortest MTBF, and is very often the one that will fail first, your hard disk. It is an electro mechanical device, and they fail, often. I work in a world where we have massive storage arrays, with thousands of disks all working flat out everyday, and they fail all the time, let me assure you.

So the moral of this little diatribe is to get you to think about backing your important data up at least once a week. To prove I carry out what I preach, I have just done this laptop, with the built in Ubuntu backup util called Deja Dup. On the Mac you have Timemachine, and I'm sure Windows will have something or you can download something easily.

Once you have started backing up your data, always make sure you test what you have backed up and least once every couple of months, just to be sure you are backing up good information.

Go on start today, and just think how smug you will feel if anything does happen ;-)

Steve, good to hear that you have set up your backup strategy. You could physically relocate the external drive, it would depend on how safe you think it is in proximity to the computer. Large companies do keep off site backups, but that may be complete overkill for home usage. I guess only you will know how important that data is.

The one key point is to always check and test what you have backed up, as this will always make sure you have good backups. I pick a random file, and move it to a safe place, and then make sure I can recover it.

I can't wait for USB 3 and Thunderbolt to become more wide spread, as this will make backing up even easier and significantly faster.

I learnt a hard lesson about backing up data regularly when one of the hard disks in my Dell suffered a fault. Dell had configured the two disks in a RaidO configuration for speed purposes, unfortunately this shares the data across the 2 disks and with only one working, recovering the data was a real pain and took a couple of weeks. My backup was at least a month old and of course some important files weren't on the backup.

I now have an external hard disk connected to my home network that synchronises two important sets of folders on my main PC once a day. The external disk actually contains a pair of hard disks in a Raid1 array so effectively my data is copied twice. I also take an image of my system disk on a 2 weekly basis. Am also wondering whether or not to move the network disk to the cellar just in case.

It's good to hear you've got yourself sorted out.


I purchased a 1tb external drive whilst back in the UK for £60-they are rather more expensive here in France. Trouble is it is USB 2 only and my Mac works faster with Firewire but my wife's PC only has USB. Have partitioned the drive so that we can both use it. Have a 14 year old Mac with it's original hard drive still going. Her Compaq has been back to HP twice for screen replacement and new hard drive and it is only just a year old. Explains why it was so cheap and PC's in general.

PS Windows is horrible!!