2 articles Tag tech tip

Backup Solutions – The 6 Levels

In 2012 you would think that we could develop machines reliable enough that they do not fail and we do not have to back up our work. But in reality, that’s not the case. Computers hard drives can crash. People can lose or damage their device beyond repair. Viruses can permiate your machine rendering them useless. You may lose your machine in a fire or a flood. The hard reality is that our data is just not safe enough being just on your hard drive. This is where backup comes in. A lot of people know they should backup, but not many actually do it. And usually when you get that ‘ah ha’ moment and you realize how great an idea it is to backup, your computer is broken and you have lost your whole digital life. I would suggest to use a backup solution BEFORE you lose all of your files. Save the tears and stress of it all. So to help you, I have outlined a few solutions below in order of least reliable to most reliable.

 

THE LEVELS OF BACKUP

LEVEL 1 – Partition
Cost: Free
Reliability: Medium
Ease of use: Medium

It’s essential that you have another copy of your data. You can partition your hard drive (basically cut it in half and have a copy of your work on the other half in case one half is lost), but that’s not so safe because if your hard drive fails or you lose it, you’ve still lost all your data. It’s hard to transfer data from one partition to another because the drives may not be the easiest to access. On the upside, partitioning is free, provides reasonable safeguards against a virus and requires no extra hardware.

 

LEVEL 2 – A USB drive or portable hard drive
Cost: ~€0.08 / GB
Reliability: Medium/low
Ease of use: Medium for tradition back up, easy if using Time Machine

A backup on a USB drive or a hard drive that you carry around with your computer is one step better than a patrician, but it’s still not the most reliable solution. What happens if your drop your computer in a puddle? Or your computer bag gets stolen? Both copies of the data are gone. The reliability of a portable external drive is OK, but if your external hard drive also crashes at the same time, then you have lost both copies of your data as hard drives have a limited life cycle. You also have to make sure you keep all of the folder structures the same and make sure you are regularly plugging the drive in and and dragging the files to the drive (unless using Time Machine which is highly advised). The chance of having the most up to date copy of your data when something goes wrong are slim, because in my experience, chances are your last backup was a month or so ago, if you could be bothered plugging it in at all. Also, USB drives have limited capacities and are so small and portable that they can be very easily lost or damaged.

 

LEVEL 3 – An external hard drive stored at home
Cost:~€0.08 / GB
Reliability: Medium
Ease of use: Medium for tradition back up, easy if using Time Machine

This is a better again, as it’s hard to lose or damage, but the downside is you have to remember to backup your work regularly. Chances are, you will start out with the best of intentions, then get lazy and rarely back up. One good thing to do if you are using any hard drive is to use Time Machine to back up your data. All you have to do is plug in your external hard drive, turn on Time Machine (and leave it on) then your computer will make a disk image of itself automatically, each time you plug it in. So if you created a document on Monday, then accidentally deleted it on Wednesday, you could go ‘back in time’ and restore your computer from Monday’s image.

One consideration is that you have to make sure the drive is big enough to fit the image on it, so it needs to be at least the same size as your computers hard drive, ideally twice the size. So your looking at about a $100 outlay. Another good feature of Time Machine is that it has a pop up that reminds you if you haven’t backed for a while. If you do choose to use an external device, I highly recommend using Time Machine with your Mac.

 

LEVEL 4 – Create Your Own Server In Your Bedroom
Cost: High
Reliability: Medium/high
Ease of use: Pro level

Basically, you run your own server from your house and access it remotely. This can work but is expensive as you need another computer and is so difficult, that only super savvy computers users could set it up. I have no idea how it works myself, so don’t ask me for help!

 

LEVEL 5 – Time Capsule
Cost: €0.15 / GB (However this also includes wireless printing and a wireless router. Actual cost per gig should be around the same as an external hard drive.)
Reliability: Medium/high
Easy of use: EASY!

Time Capsule is a hard drive and wireless router made by Apple. It walks you through creating a wireless network in your house and also backs up your computer wirelessly using Time Machine. It does this automatically, so if you are out and about and make changes on your computer, when you get home and connect to the wireless connection, your backup is updated. This is a great backup solution and there are many other cool features of the Time Capsule, like wireless printing and many wireless network settings such as guest log in, etc.

The only downside is if you are out and about, you create or change many important files and then lose your laptop, the changes will not be saved as your computer had not had a chance to make it to your wireless network. The other problem is if your laptop and Time Capsule get destroyed (flood, fire, etc.), all your data is gone.

 

LEVEL 6 – Cloud Backup
Cost: Backblaze $50/year (unlimited backup space), Carbonite $59/year (unlimited backup space), SugarSync $150/year (100 GB), Mozy $110/year (125 GB), etc.
Reliability: High
Ease of use: Very easy

Over the last few years, the internet has seen the emergence of ‘the cloud’. Basically, a ‘cloud’ is a place where you store or access files online, rather than on your computers hard drive. The advantage to this is that you can access your files anywhere on any device with internet. The other advantage is that the servers that the information is stored on is generally much more reliable than any hard drive you or I could maintain. They are in big storage facilities with a multitude of cooling and maintenance solutions with a whole range of backup to protect the servers. Generally, the servers are backed up onsite as well as off site, saving the data from a local disaster (flood, fire, earthquake, etc.). As a result, the reliability is amazing.

One good way to utilize this technology is to use a cloud backup solution. There are a multitude of options around but personally, I use Backblaze as it’s the cheapest I could find that meets my needs. For Backblaze, all you do is install a small app and it does the rest for you. It send all of your files securely to their servers, fully encrypted and safe. As soon as you make a change on your computer, it updates it. As long as you have an internet connection, anywhere, it keeps all of your work backed up, trouble free, automatically. There is no limit to how much space you can use on their server. Another great feature is if you are away from your computer and need to access files (for example, you need files from your home computer on your work computer), you can log into the website and download any files from the cloud that you need.

As for the price, the way I see it is it’s the same price as a new external hard drive every two year, but without the hassles of remember to plug it in, maintain it, etc. with unlimited space. For me, I think this is easily the simplest, safest, most reliable backup solution available and a great investment in your digital life.

Internet Safety: Passwords

In the first few lessons I have with my middle school students I teach a very important lesson that hopefully will impact my students for the rest of their lives. As part of my internet safety unit, I expressed to them the importance of a secure password; then I showed them how to make a secure password. I then showed them how to remember and manage their password. Now, every student in middle school has created a secure password and has a password page in their planner to help remind them of their password. If you have a shared email account with your daughter or if you control your daughter’s email password and the password you use it not secure, it would be great if you could come up with a password together and change the passwords for the accounts. Encourage your daughter to keep track of her passwords on her password page by asking to see it every now and then to make sure it’s updated. I encourage the girls not to write their full password in their planner and to instead write a code or a few letters to remind them.

If you would like to know how to create and manage a secure password, you can view the lesson here: