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External Hard Drive Backup Strategy: A Plan for Backup Success

June 27, 2010DavidBackup0

People often ask me what the best way is to maintain a backup of their computer system. While the backup software you use is important, the strategy you use to backup may be even more important.

What’s the Best Strategy?
That’s simple. NEVER rely on one device to store data which for which you only have one copy. Put another way, always keep TWO copies of any important data. For most people, this should be straight forward. If you have a computer with a 250GB drive, make sure you have a 250GB backup drive. This way, if your computer hard drive fails, or the external drive fails, you always have a good copy. People run into the most trouble when they have a 250GB computer hard drive, and offload some files (usually videos and other multimedia) on to the external drive to save space on the computer hard drive so they can download more multimedia onto the computer. What happens in this situation is that you now have files on the computer that aren’t backed-up on to the external drive, and vice versa. Thus, if you now lose a drive, you will not have a backup because you only had individual copies of the data you need.

To solve this problem, simply purchase two external hard drives. It may sound like a lot of work (it’s cheap $75-$100 each — a small price to pay not to lose data), but it’s not. Here’s what you do: (and you can use a program like SyncBack [freeware version] to do it).

1. Copy all of your needed data from your computer hard drive to the External Drive 1.
2. Copy all of the data from External Drive 1 to External Drive 2.
3. When you want to move “overflow” data off your computer hard drive to make space for new data (e.g. movies you haven’t watched in a year) — no problem. Just copy the data onto External Drive 1 (you may want to create a new folder on the drive to keep the data organized (e.g. /oldMovies), and then mirror (copy the data onto External Drive 2).

In this manner you now have a copy of everything that’s current from your computer on External Drive 1, and you also have the “overflow” data (e.g. the /oldMovies folder) you copied to make space for more data) there, too. With only one External Drive, you will now have only ONE copy of the /oldMovies folder and its data. With the second external drive, you now have a copy of the oldMovies data on External Drive 2.

In summary, no one manufacturer of External Hard Drive will guarantee not losing data. The key concept here is to make sure that all important data is backed up in at least TWO places (or more depending upon how important your data is). The system above is one basic approach to use to mirror (copy) your data. I’d be interested to see what methodologies others use to mirror their data. Let me know.

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