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Backing up your data Part 2: Local backups

A big part of your backup plan should include local backup. A local backup is one that is in the same building as the original data. This does NOT mean on the same hard drive. After all, if your hard drive fails the backup wouldn’t be accessible. So how? The simplest way is to purchase and install a USB-connected external hard drive. These are available in very large sizes that will store a copy of the entire contents of your computer. You will also need backup software that will run on a scheduled basis so that backups occur at a time when the computer is idle. Most USB external hard drives come with this type of software; Windows also has a backup application, or you can purchase backup software.

There are several types of local backups you can make.

  • Image Backup: An image backup copies every single bit and byte on your computer’s hard drive to the backup drive. This type of backup is impractical as a daily routine, because it typically will take many hours to complete. However, the big advantage to an image backup is that recovering from a drive failure is much easier. Restoring an image backup also restores the operating system (Windows or OS X), all previously installed software applications, and any data.

  • Full Backup (Compressed File): Most backup software applications create a copy of everything on your drive (or choose the files to be backed up), but the result will be compressed or “zipped” to take up less space on your backup media. Even compressed, however, this can result in a very large blob of data, and will require use of the software to extract and restore your backup. This type of backup also may take a while to complete, but most applications will allow you to schedule the backup for a time when the computer is idle.

  • Incremental Backup (Compressed File): Once you have at least one full backup, subsequent backups can be made by just backing up the files that have been created or changed since the previous backup. These files would also be stored in a compressed format.

  • Synchronized Backup: A synchronized backup is not compressed. Using specialized software such as Microsoft Sync Toy, the backup will make a direct copy of the files you choose. The first sync will make a full backup of your selected files; subsequent syncs will copy only new or changed files. One thing to note however: if you delete a file from your hard drive, either accidentally or intentionally, the next sync will remove the deleted file from your backup data.

Regardless of the method you use, restoring from a local backup is much easier than from an offsite backup, especially if all you need are one or two files.

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