I manage large amounts of data for a living. To me, backups are like breathing. Backups are what allow me to sleep at night. My company realizes how valuable this data is and they are willing to spend whatever is needed to keep it safe and accessible. I’m constantly amazed at people who tell me that they never backup their personal computers – ‘I don’t have anything valuable on it.’ Maybe that’s true or maybe they aren’t thinking hard enough. How about you folks who use PCs for your jobs at church? You have no excuse! You need to stop and think about the data on your machine. What if it disappeared right now? What are you willing to lose?

Configuration settings
Personal Information
Passwords & Program Keys
General Data
(I’m NOT including program files as they are often faster to simply reinstall than to recover)

Some of these can be replaced at the cost of time – some are irreplaceable. It makes me sick every time I hear about a disk failure, theft, or accident……. It’s always counterproductive to ask if they had backups or not (they just get mad). This needs to stop – your time and work is too valuable to simply trust it to a single disk drive. There are tons of free backup applications out there. You can even start with the one that Microsoft includes with Windows – Excellent Tutorial HERE. You need to develop a strategy – there are millions that can work:

Backup files to

Another machine on your network
Dedicated Disk
Remote server on the Web

Backup applications can help you to develop a good strategy. You will likely forget something important that the software will remember. You can schedule your backups to run automatically (mine are completely unattended – purge after 4 weeks). You may never need it, but it’s foolish to be a poor steward of your data when it’s so easy to do it right!

Here are some lists of (mostly) free backup applications –


Here are some commercial programs you may already own that can do the job –

Nero Burning ROM
EZ Media Creator

Some solutions recommended by friends –

Retrospect Express (OEM – free w/ disk purchase)
(check when you buy a new disk they often give you a backup application free)
Karen’s Replicator (free)
Cobian (free)

Drive imaging software –

Acronis True Image
Norton Ghost

This is what I use –

Genie Backup Mananger
(with the File Access Manager for open files)

Here are some Backup Software reviews –

(you can see why I chose Genie)

My personal preference is to backup to a separate disk. It’s faster and very reliable. Build an external Firewire/USB2 drive and you can even use it with your laptop.

Check out these external drive enclosures –

(buy a disk on sale anywhere)

The next step for me was NAS – Network Attached Storage
It’s basically a tiny Linux box running Samba that you can place on your network. It’s accessible to anyone and perfect for backups. It might sound beyond your means, but a simple external NAS enclosure can be had for little more than a 1394/USB2 enclosure. You can spend more on features like RAID, Striping, and Print Serving, but the basic ‘disk on the network’ model is around $50 (without the disk of course). I have one that I use to backup 3 of the four machines in my house. It works great for my XP, Win2k and Ubuntu machines. My personal machine has it’s own external firewire drive. I do a full backup every week and an incremental every day. I can keep 4 weeks of backups on the disk and it automatically purges the older sets. A full week of backups is around 65gB or so. I generally backup large video files separately. An occasional DVD copy is also a great idea (once or twice a year).

Here is that DIY $50 external NAS enclosure –

(buy a disk on sale anywhere)

Some ‘store bought’ NAS solutions  –

HP Media Vault
Western Digital Net Center
Maxtor Shared Storage
Seagate Mirra Personal Server
Lacie Ethernet Disk
Hawking Net Store
Netgear Storage Central
Iomega Network Storage
Triton Simple NAS
SimpleTech Simple Share
QNAP Turbo Station
Yellow Machine
Buffalo Terastation
Infrant Ready NAS

Please start a backup plan – statistically you will experience a data loss and you’ll feel so much better when you have invested in a good backup plan. It’s just foolish not to! The smartest companies realize this. The vast majority of companies that experience critical data losses never recover – I’ve seen figures of around 85% that just close their doors. You may not think your personal data is worth very much, but it’s been slowly growing in value for the past several years now and the rate of growth is rising.

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