December 21, 2010, 1:45 PM — Have you ever noticed that insurance seems to operate on the Murphy's Law principle? If you have it, you never need it, but as soon as the insurance is gone a catastrophe strikes. That is pretty much how backing up data often works.
Of course, you know better and you have your important data safely backed up. Right? Well, even if that's the case, it may not be enough. What you do with that backup data, and where you store it, is almost as critical as backing up the data in the first place.
For starters, you have to have the data backed up in the first place. There are a variety of tools available for the task, including NovaBackup, Acronis True Image, and others. However, if you are using a Windows PC, you already have tools at your disposal that are suitable for most common backup functions.
Click Start and type "backup" in the search bar to go straight to the Windows Backup utility. The utility lets you create a bootable System Repair disc that you can use to start and troubleshoot Windows when problems arise. You can also create a System Image that duplicates the drives and data necessary to run Windows.
For our purposes, though, you just need to set up a scheduled backup. Just select the drive you want to back the data up to, the files or folders you want backed up, and the time and day when the backup should run.
You can do full backups that copy literally every file, but those often take forever and capture gigabytes of files you don't really need. You should focus your backups on unique data that can't be replaced like original documents, financial information, e-mail communications, etc.
It is best that you backup your data to a different physical drive than the one where the original data is stored. Otherwise, a catastrophe that kills the original data will almost certainly wipe out the backup data as well. For that same reason, the backup data should be stored on an external drive or system--like a portable USB drive.
OK. So, now your data is being backed up on a regular basis to an external USB drive. You can sleep soundly, knowing that your data is protected and you have nothing to worry about, right? Wrong.