With larger and larger hard drives arriving each day with modern PCs, it gets increasingly harder to find an easy backup solution for the enormous amounts of data these drives can now hold. Since losing family photos or other important data is an all-too real possibility with so much stored on a drive, backing up the data is a must. The most common backup methods available today are CDs and DVDs, external hard drives, or USB flash memory drives.
Before we get into the nitty-gritty of safe saving, there is a backup solution that doesn’t involve much hardware. Skip backing up to DVD or hard drive and go directly 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 useful thing about this method is that you can get to it from anywhere in the world where you have a fast connection to the web. Carbonite is offering a 15-day free trial period, too.
USB flash drives have come a long way in a short time, but they are still the most expensive method of storing data per gigabyte. Also, given their portability and small size, it is easy to ‘misplace’ or damage a USB key with valuable backup data on it â€“ not a good thing.
Still, they keep getting cheaper all the time â€“ Memorex makes a good line of USB drives that also have the advantage of being U3-enabled, meaning programs can be run directly off the drive as though they were already installed on any PC the drive is plugged into.
The easiest solution for maximum backup space is of course another hard drive. External USB hard drives have become commonplace in the past five years. They are inexpensive, easy to operate and, most importantly: have lots of space for backing up critical data.
These drives connect seamlessly with Windows XP or Vista through the USB ports on a PC â€“ no setup is needed for any external drive bought at retailer. Seagate’s FreeAgent line of external backup drives is a good choice for their easy setup, low cost per gigabyte and reliability â€“ the drives come with an industry-leading five-year warranty.
The simplest solution for small backups is a DVD Writer. This is a DVD drive that allows you to create your own DVDs to store data (this is also called “burning” a DVD). This method has the advantage of long life. A typical DVD will have a shelf life of five years or longer, depending on the quality of the media purchased. Given that no moving parts are involved with a DVD once it’s been ‘burned’ they are a cheap way to safely archive data for long periods of time.
Blank DVD’s (labeled ‘DVD-R’, DVD+R etc.) are DVDs that can be burned only once. DVD-RW are rewritable. You can overwrite them dozens of times, but they are VERY slow to use. Newer drives will be able to write to multiple formats of DVDs, such as Double-Layer DVDs that hold up to 7.8 gigabytes of data each, twice the amount of a normal DVD. The various formats of DVDs available, such as DVD-R and DVD+R, refer to the method of recording that a DVD writer will use to put data on the disc. Most modern DVD writers are referred to as ‘Super DVD Multi Drives’ meaning they can use most any DVD or CD media to both be read or to be written to.
For now, simply purchase whatever media is cheapest, as modern DVD authoring software will do the hard work for you in determining how to write to a write-once DVD-R/+R DVD.
The newest (and most expensive) DVD drives are able to write the new HD-DVD and Blu-Ray standards, which hold up to 20 or 25 gigabytes per DVD, respectively. You can find a Blu-Ray DVD burner here
To record DVDs, in addition to the DVD burner, your computer will need to have at least a 700 MHz Pentium III processor, at least 512MB of RAM and 12GB of available hard drive space.
The disk space is optional. It’s necessary if you will be saving data to your computer from a DVD before copying them onto a blank. You’ll definitely want to do this if you’re making multiple copies of the same DVD. As well, the disk space allows the drive to more easily ‘cache’ the data as it is written, reducing the likelihood of producing a ‘coaster’ â€“ a bad DVD. Almost all modern DVD drives include a type of ‘Burn-Proof’ technology, which means the drive has its own small cache of RAM to allow the incoming data a few seconds ‘to spare’ in case of a glitch in the data stream.
All DVD rewriters on the market today will also burn CDs, which is useful for creating music mixes or simply backing up small amounts of data to a cheap and reliable medium.
When shopping for a DVD drive, look at the speeds on the box. The info will be broken down into both CD and DVD speeds: 8X / 16X . These numbers refer to how fast the drive is compared to the speed at which a DVD player reads a normal DVD (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 or DVD. The second X number is how fast the drive can copy data from the hard drive to a CD or DVD. The last number is the “read” speed. That’s how fast the drive reads data from a CD. A nice example of a capable, inexpensive internal DVD-RW drive is the LG DVD-RW burner.
Most drives come with software that will do data backups as well as audio CD creation. We also highly recommend East-Tec Backup 2007 if you’re looking for really simple one-click backup software.
While it will work fine, a DVD-Writer drive is not the most efficient way to back up a drive. If you had a 250 GB hard drive, you’d need 65 DVDs to do a full backup! So, for any full backup jobs of more than 10 GB, a hard drive solution is recommended to get the task done in a reasonable amount it time with minimum DVD-swapping and creating.