In recognition of World Backup Day, we felt it was important to discuss why backup software is so important. Unfortunately many computer users have learned the importance of backup software the hard way.  Hard drives are one of the least reliable components of a PC system, and most people know at least someone who has been the victim of a hard drive crash.  When this happens, sometimes the data can be recovered by experts through a process that can cost hundreds of dollars.  Generally, the computer user simply loses his or her important personal files and digital photos.

Laptop Users Continue to Roll the Dice and Chance Data Loss

The situation has only worsened with the advent of laptops.  The reduced space restricts airflow and leads to problems with the internal cooling systems.  Even with a well-ventilated PC, hard drives were expected to fail within 5 years because of age problems.  When installed in a laptop, the increased heat induces failure even sooner.  Some laptop users experience hard drive failures within 3 years.  Regardless of these statistics, many users continue to roll the dice and either perform a minimal, insufficient backup, or maintain no backup system at all.  Here are some of the reasons why a backup system is important, and some of the considerations necessary for designing a good backup system.

A backup system is designed either for creating a complete copy of a hard drive (called an image), or by backing up specific individual files or folders, generally files that contain key information (not program applications).  In the case of data corruption, or complete data failure, users can use the backed up information to perform a complete recovery, and restore the system to its pre-failure condition.

Backups Should Reduce Storage Space with Compression

One important feature of software for backups is the ability to compress data, in order to reduce the amount of storage space required for a backup.  This allows the system to be backed up at several key intervals if necessary, for example, each time a major change or application installation is performed.  It can also allow for a smaller storage target, saving the user money.  The data compression can also include an encryption algorithm, in order to protect sensitive data from theft.  Good software will allow a backup to any physical target, including a second hard drive, and external flash drive, or a separate wireless storage drive.  Some software will even allow a remote backup to a second site, to provide the best protection for critical data.  The best software will implement some form of incremental backup.  This means that, instead of backing up all the critical data at one time, which could take an hour or more for large systems, only files that have changed since the previous backup are stored.  This can reduce the time to a matter of minutes.  This allows frequency backups, even daily backups without interrupting workflow or taking an inordinate amount of time.

Free backup software is available online although they often come at a cost, even if that cost is the lack of features or support backing the product.  Many operating systems also have some form of automated backup that comes free with the system, but free is not necessarily the least expensive option once you considers labor requirements and functionality. For more advanced software options, third party publishers provide excellent packages at a reasonable price.  Remote storage is often charged on a monthly basis as they consider their clients as renters of their storage media.  For advanced, critical data applications, third party companies assume all the responsibility for a full company data backup and long-term integrity.

Backing up data is important, even essential for some users.  The proper backup software allows individuals and businesses to operate with confidence, knowing that their data is protected.