The Help Key: Back The Frak Up

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Since then I’ve been very “don’t let this happen to you” when I talk to people about backing up their files. The number of digital media files alone on my computer skyrocketed over the past few years and to lose that stuff would be devastating. You likely feel the same way about yours.

To that end, I decided to throw down some rules to follow to setup a successful file backup routine.

Pick A Solution and Stick With It:

Bad backup software can deter you from regularly saving your files and give you a false sense of security. A perfect solution not only makes it easy to save your files, but should make it painless to restore them as well.

As former software editor for Computer Shopper magazine, I got to see and test many backup solutions. Memeo AutoBackup remains one of the best, if not the best, I’ve used. I’m not the only one that thinks it’s great either. Seagate added the software to its new line of external drives. D-Link bundles it with its DNS-323 Network Storage Enclosure. And Buffalo Technology includes it with most of its external storage solutions.

Why I like it so much is that aside from a breezy setup it lets you maintain a backup routine without any hassle. Save to multiple locations, easily restore files with one click, encrypt and password protect your files and track changes to all of them as well. The list of features is lengthy for an app that costs just $30, but again, it’s its simplicity and ease of use that’s key. The company seems to understand that if you have to do much of anything to save your crucial data, you likely won’t.

Whatever you decide to go with though, even if it’s just dragging and dropping new files to a different storage location than your hard drive, you have to keep backing up regularly.

Another option is ChronoSync, an OS X solution with lots of set-it-and-forget-it-ness.

Pick A Location and Triple It:

Whether or not you’ve had a desktop or notebook drive fail on you, the fact is, they do. They fail all the time. Regardless of manufacturer, the price you paid, the length of the warranty—they can and will fail. Now think about what’s inside that external backup hard drive. That’s right, it’s a hard drive and it can fail just like the one in your computer.

The moral is, don’t rely on backing up to only one location. Weather catastrophes, forest fires, mudslides, house fires, burglaries—these things just happen. Backing up to an external drive is a good start, but saving to two more places means you likely won’t ever have to worry about lost files.

Keep a set of important files saved to CDs, DVDs or flash drive and give them to a friend or family member you trust or if you have a safety deposit box, keep them there. (You should of course encrypt the files if they’re really important.) Save a set to an external or secondary internal drive. Put some online; services like and offer free and paid options, and Memeo has a storage service, too. The point is, one backup is good, three backups to different locations is best.

Pick A System Maintenance Plan and Use It:

Much like people tend to skip over their backup procedure with a click of the “cancel” button, they avoid system maintenance as well. Why is this important to backing up your files? Well, it will do you little good to save copies of your files to other locations if they are corrupt when they get transferred.

There are a ton of system maintenance products on the market. One of my favorites is VCOM’s $49.95 Fix-It Utilities 7 Professional. It’s bright-and-shiny interface is easy to follow for novices and the suite has almost everything you’d ever need for keeping your PC tuned and free from spyware and viruses as well.

The Help Key is a weekly article about making the most of your high-tech gear and appears every Monday. Read more of The Help Key here