How Many Backups Do I Need? [A World Backup Day Post]

By. Jimmy Marks

I’ve been on the lookout for good articles to share for the World Backup Day on March 31. I’ve been trying out the tips and tricks offered by these articles and I’ve found a few of them quite useful.

This article, “The Computer Backup Rule of Three” by Scott Hanselman, is a good read. Much more than telling you what a backup is, the article tells you what a backup isn’t. Namely, a backup is not a copy of the file stored in the same storage space as the original. Backing up your photo library to another place on your computer hard drive is NOT backing up your library, for instance.

Have I committed a few of these sins? Yes. And MAN, have I been burned for it.

I backed up a copy of my old photos and moved them off my computer to organize the newer photos…and the .zip file got corrupted. Who knows where those images are now. Do I have another copy? Can I undo what’s been done? I’m honestly not sure. I wish I could go back in time and smack the younger me in the head. Alas, we can’t look back – only forward, to a future where we don’t make such foolish mistakes.

From the article mentioned above, a practical guideline for backups – how, how often, and how important:

Here’s the rule of three. It’s a long time computer-person rule of thumb that you can apply to your life now. It’s also called the Backup 3-2-1 rule.

3 copies of anything you care about – Two isn’t enough if it’s important.
2 different formats – Example: Dropbox+DVDs or Hard Drive+Memory Stick or CD+Crash Plan, or more
1 off-site backup – If the house burns down, how will you get your memories back?

After I read this, I went home and gave it a try. I already have external backup disks (about 1TB apiece, one for each computer in my home), but I wanted to look into the other ways to store my important stuff.

One easy way to store a few gigs worth of files? Thumb drives and DVDs. Fewer computers are coming with optical disk drives nowadays, but my computer burns DVDs which, on average, hold about 4 GB worth of data. Thumb drives, once an expensive convenience, are now cheap, cheap, cheap and come in many sizes. Moore’s law is your computer’s best friend and makes the once-hard-to-get 8 GB thumb drive a thing of beauty and thrift (they’re about $8 at your local Walmart).

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