How to choose a backup technology

Question: Could you please tell me the most practical options available for backing up the entire contents of a PC? I use mine for my small business, and in the event of my hard disk crashing, I’d need to be able to immediately transfer all the data on to a new computer. – D.J.

Answer: With larger and larger hard drives these days, it gets increasingly harder to find an easy backup solution.

Probably the best solution I’ve found has been a CD writer. This is a CD drive that allows you to create compact discs (this is also called “burning” a CD).

It uses blank CDs that are either CD-Recordable (“CD-R”) which means the CD can be burned only once, and can’t be erased or edited.

The other type of CD that can be used with a CD writer is called CD-Rewriteable (“CD-RW”). These CDs can be recorded and erased and re-recorded. They are reusable up to 1,000 times.

This kind of drive can be used to create either an audio CD or a data CD. About 74 minutes of audio can be recorded, or they can hold about 650 MB of data. Some CD-R discs have slightly higher capacities. Check the packaging in the stores.

To record CDs, in addition to the CD burner, your computer will need to have at least a 100 MHz Pentium processor, plus at least 16MB of RAM and 700MB of available hard drive space to record CDs.

The disk space is optional. It’s necessary if you will be saving data to your computer from a CD before copying them onto a blank. You’ll definitely want to do this if you’re making multiple copies of the same CD.

When shopping for a CD-RW drive., look at the speeds on the box. The info will look something like this: 2X / 4X / 32X. All numbers refer to how fast the drive is compared to the speed at which a CD player reads a music CD (which is considered 1 times or “1X”).

The first number in the sequence above is how fast the drive “writes” to a blank from a source CD. The second X number is how fast the drive can copy data from the hard drive to a CD. The last number is the “read” speed. That’s is how fast the drive reads data from a CD.

Most drives come with software that will do data backups as well as audio CD creation. We also highly recommend Eazy Backup if you’re looking for really simple backup software.

While it will work fine, a CD-RW drive is not the most efficient way to back up a drive. If you had a 10 GB hard drive, you’d need 16 CDs to do a full backup!

There is another less hardware-intensive backup solution. Skip backing up to CD and back up to the web. Just get an account with Carbonite. They give you space and software and you click and all your data is stored on their secure server. The cool thing about this is that you can get to it from anywhere you happen to be, as long as you can connect to the web. Carbonite is offering a 15 day free trial period.