How many times have we heard folks say that they've lost "irreplaceable" data due to hard drive failure, malware, accidental deletion, reformatting, or other mishaps? If you've been a techie for years, you may have heard it hundreds of times.
Quite often, we provide partial solutions to recovery, with the occasional good idea of setting a drive as a secondary drive to snag data that way – but even more frequently, we send people on their merry way without providing solid backup solutions.
I've seen a lot of recent discussion and articles about Clonezilla, which is a free backup tool. I guess some people swear by it, and that's fine if it works for you. To be honest, I've only glanced at those discussions, because I purchased what I think is an excellent tool — Acronis True Image Home 2010 PC Backup and Recovery.
I have six computers in all. Three main computers are on a small home network, and the other three are protected by Ghost images made to external USB drives. The latter method is painstaking – yank the drive out, slave it to the computer with Ghost, create the image, and replace the drive – and images aren't made as often as I'd like.
Ideally, I like to see full images weekly, and Acronis allows us to do that. Another plus is that Acronis is easy to use. You can cruise through the backup images from the Acronis browser, just like Windows Explorer, and cherry-pick and restore files to any directory.
About a month ago, I got slammed by malware. Fortunately, it happened the day after I made a backup. I saved a few recent documents and downloads to my secondary drive, inserted Acronis' boot disc, located my backup image, and timed how long it took to restore my computer back to a clean operation system with all 149 of my programs and data intact. Overall, it took 15-20 minutes to restore 75GB.
Acronis has one bug that affects the network, but I found the solution on Brickblog. Simply modify the Registry on all effected computers, and you're back in business.
How much will Acronis set you back? My total cost for three PCs was roughly $150.00, but you might be able to find lower prices. Justin James said that when he bought a MB from Newegg, they bundled Acronis Home for $4.99. The point is that deals are out there.
You can also protect your data by saving it to DVDs or purchasing secondary drives. I bought 1.5 TB secondary drives for two computers – the third computer doesn't have room, so its images go to a USB drive, which is much slower.
Even though the 1.5 TB secondary drives can store a lot of images (I won't have to delete old images as often when those drives eventually fill up), I still don't trust our backup images to secondary drives alone. About once a monthly, the latest image is stored to a large USB drive, which cost about $150.00.
A total of $300.00 is pretty cheap insurance for "irreplaceable" data. Even if you have a ton of security applications, they're only as good as your last, clean backup image. In today's world, you can get slammed with something nasty in a heartbeat.
Backup, people! Backup, backup, backup! If you don't, I may commiserate with you about your data loss, but I may also shake my head because there are so many alternatives out there to backing up data and preventing data loss. The responsibility for your data is ultimately in your hands.
Sonja Thompson started at TechRepublic in October 1999. She is a former Senior Editor at TechRepublic.