Protecting your data – Options, Recommendations and Strategies

By: Sean Kinney

Most people know they should protect files, pictures and music protected by saving additional copies somewhere. Files get corrupted or deleted. PCs and laptops crash. Viruses infect PCs. Laptops get stolen. And yes, sometimes disaster strikes the home – hurricane, fire, flood. Who understands this reality the most? People who have had it happen to them and were unprepared. Whether it is cost, laziness or denial, the number of consumers at risk is staggering.

News flash: It will likely happen to you. The only question is when.

In reality, information is the most valuable piece of any PC or laptop. The price of the hardware continues to decline and the common applications cost about $100. But how much would you spend to have your PC rebuilt? And how would you replace your digital life if it disappeared?

There are now a few basic options, each with its own advantages and tradeoffs:

1) Manually copy data to an external hard drive or portable USB drive
Simple in concept, but plagued by human error, lack of consistent updates and prone to spreading viruses. Difficult to execute with large amounts of data.

2) Back up to an external drive with backup software
Effective and automated by software that can also create full image of PC for full system backup (including operating system and applications). Easy restore, if necessary. Drawback is backup media is susceptible to theft, hardware failure or physical disaster.

3) Back up to an online backup service
Effective and automated by software to back up files and folders to a secure, remote location. Easy restore from Internet-connected PC. Drawback is initial upload time.

4) Combine 1 or 2 with 3
The best of all worlds. Fast and reliable access combined with off-site protection of critical information.

To figure out the right protection option, each user should start by asking, What type of user am I? Regardless of where you fit into the spectrum of computer knowledge and comfort, there are choices and options available for protecting your data. When it comes to backup, there are a handful of types of users. Each has both its own specific needs and approach to the basic backups.

Regardless of where you fit into the spectrum of computer knowledge and comfort, there are choices and options available for protecting your data.

Ignorance Is Bliss
This user group is unaware that anything bad could ever happen to their PC. Research shows that the number of PC owners in this category is staggering. If this sounds familiar, Congratulations! Reading the first few paragraphs of this article graduates users to the next group below.

Aware and Afraid to Act
Those in this group know they need to do something, but are afraid to make a mistake. So instead, they don’t do anything. For this group, first things first: Relax. Computers and technology and are supposed to be fun and make life easier. Knowing that information should be protected is a major first step.

These users need something simple, automated and without anything to manage. The ideal solution is an online backup service scheduled to backup data daily. It is easy to use and after the initial configuration, it runs automatically. Set up the backup to run at a time when the PC is idle, such as overnight.

If or when a file or folder (or more) must be restored, contact the vendor’s chat or email customer service for instructions. Customer support is usually included in the annual price. Use it.

My PC is my (digital) life
Most users fall into this category. Without knowing how everything works (and not really caring), each day users access critical email, music, photos, and financial and personal files.

These users should backup daily using an automated process. An online backup service is the ideal solution here as well as above. It is easy-to-use, automated and it eliminates the requirement to know about hardware, upgrades or anything technical. The online backup service takes care of all of it.

The on-the-go user needs to have data with them at all times – no waiting.

The on-the-go user should combine a couple approaches. First, keep a multi-gigabyte USB drive at his or her fingertips. The down side is that this requires manual file transfer files from a hard drive to the USB. This approach meets immediate needs, but does not protect all information or protect the files from corruption. If the file is corrupted on the PC, it will be corrupted on the USB drive. An online backup service complements the use of the USB. Further, an online backup service allows the user to recover multiple versions of a file, to retrieve the version prior to when the file became corrupted and to access data from any Internet-connected PC.

The on-the-go user should schedule backups multiple times per day and initiate a manual backup of data when leaving the PC. When used this frequently, the online backup service doubles as an online file access and synchronization service.

PC expert
Advanced users, like those that subscribe to PC magazines, may find this article to be boring. I understand and am not offended. They want the ultimate in data protection. The PC and information are critical.

The PC expert should have a local backup and an online solution, combining #2 and #3 from above. The local backup is used for fast file or system recovery; the online solution helps in case of theft, disaster and remote data access when away from the PC. Typically, the PC expert sets his or her backup schedules to occur every couple hours. Wisely, the expert launches a manual “Backup Now” at critical points in a document or work project.

It’s not fun to talk about bad things happening. Yet we buy life insurance and homeowner’s insurance to protect our assets. You should similarly buy some protection for your information and digital assets. The New Year’s resolutions of a few short months ago are probably already shot, but this is a 2010 resolution you can keep and will pay huge dividends.

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Sean Kinney is Vice-President, of Cloud Services at Acronis. Acronis is a global provider of storage management software that enables corporations and individuals to move, manage and maintain digital assets. He blogs about online backup and related topics at

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