Why Backup Our Files and Folders?

Updated on June 26, 2019
James F Turner profile image

James is a Microsoft Certified application and database developer currently working for a market leading UK cad software company

Mechanical Hard Drive (Exploded View)
Mechanical Hard Drive (Exploded View)

A Look Back At Data Storage Media

Back in the eighties and early nineties desktop computers were in their infancy and were just starting to make their way into offices all around the world to begin their journey from being what was essentially an oversized calculator to the quantum processing marvels that we can't seem to live without today.

My father was the head of the I.T department at a company in Birmingham in the UK at the time when desktop computers were making their way into the mainstream, I can remember going in to work with him to have a look around at all the computers and especially remember the huge storage drives that were made up of metal disks as big as vinyl records.

These huge storage drives and the data on them were so important to the company that they were housed in their own separate room within the I.T department. The room was fitted with a halon gas fire suppression system so that in the event of a fire the halon gas would instantly suffocate the fire and anyone unlucky enough to get stuck in the room with it at the same time!

A good example of just how far computers have advanced is to take a look at the capacity of storage medium available back then and now. Back in the eighties, a 3.5-inch floppy disk could hold 1.44 megabytes of data while a 5.25-inch floppy disk held just 1.2 megabytes of data. Hard drives were not much bigger either and held only 10 megabytes of data.

In comparison today the average hard drive is 250 gigabytes in size, that's 250,000 megabytes and this is pretty small in today's standards with drives readily available in terabyte sizes. Seagate recently announced that they will be releasing a 16 terabyte hard drive that's a heady 16,000,000 megabytes, that's a huge 1,600,000 times bigger than that of the hard drives available in the eighties just 35 years ago.

Halon Gas Fire Suppressed Server Room
Halon Gas Fire Suppressed Server Room

What Causes Loss Of Data?

One of the main reasons for taking backups of our data is to guard against its loss in the event of a mechanical breakdown of the hard drive its self. In the eighties the technology was relatively new and hard drive failures were a very common occurrence. I can remember having to run a dos command that "Parked The Heads" of very early hard drives to help avoid damage when moving a computer to a different location.

Hard drives these days seem to be much more robust than they used to be but as they contain moving parts they are still prone to failure as the parts wear over time and if your very unlucky potentially they could contain defective parts. New solid state hard drives use the same kind of technology as USB sticks and do not contain any moving parts but they are still prone to degradation over time.

Physical failure of the storage media is not the only concern either, a large spike in power to your machine could damage not just the storage media but your hole computer beyond repair. On the flip side of this if the power to your computer is interrupted at a crucial moment the data on your hard drive can become corrupted especially while the operating system is performing updates.

For large companies, especially the government, data loss is a serious issue as this could be someones social security information or medical records. Big businesses go to extreme lengths to protect their data so that it can not be used against them by rival companies or companies looking to copy their designs. Data centre's are particularly secure with one in the Amsterdam having its own moat around it to keep unwanted people out and prevent theft of data.

AM4 Data Center Amsterdam
AM4 Data Center Amsterdam

How Do We Prevent Loss Of Data?

Fortunately, there are lots of options available to us currently to defend against the loss of our most important data.

One of the easiest and probably the most common forms of data backup currently is cloud storage. Cloud storage can be a little bit miss leading as the name kind of suggests that it isn't something that exists in a physical sense. This couldn't be further from the truth and your data will be sitting in a data centre somewhere, like the one previously discussed, firmly grounded, with a moat for protection.

I guess ground storage doesn't sound as catchy?

Cloud storage is relatively inexpensive considering you don't have to pay for the upkeep of the servers, server upgrades, guys to maintain them and the electricity that powers them. Google and Microsoft both give away a free amount of cloud storage when you set up a personal account with them and this is exceptionally handy for keeping personal files backed up to the cloud.

One of the more traditional backup methods is to use an external hard drive specifically for the purpose of keeping regular backups of your data. Back in the early eighties, you would have needed to give up a few rooms of your house to store the data most people can store on their smartphones today. Current external hard drives can have a smaller footprint than that of a floppy disk from the eighties and can easily be transported making them perfect for backing up data.

USB and Flashcards also possess impressive amounts of space now, Kingston's DataTraveler HyperX Predator 3.0 USB can hold one terabyte of data and Integral Memory's SDXC UHS-I U1 microSD is capable of holding 512 gigabytes of data. Considering the microSD is only 15mm high X 11mm wide X 1mm deep you could fit thousands of these in the same volume of space that our 10 megabyte hard drive from the eighties would have taken up. With USB and Flashcards capable of holding so much data in such a small space they are great for keeping backups of data.

To get the best out of our backup storage media one of the most critical things that we need to do is to put our new and updated files there on a regular basis so our backed up files are as current as possible. Nearly all cloud-based storage have some sort of facility to ensure the files you have backed up are the most current ones. Google has their GoogleDrive system which you can download and install on your machine, then all you need to do is choose the folders you want to keep backed up, Microsoft has a similar setup with their OneDrive offering.

There are also lots of programs out there on the net that you can use to constantly synchronise files and folders with your storage media so that your most recent work is safely backed up at regular intervals like Lite Sync. This sort of approach is great for external hard drives, USB, flash drives and can also be useful when backing up to physical network locations.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

Questions & Answers

    © 2019 James F Turner

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        charleswdrake 

        4 weeks ago

        We do a backup of our data not to lose it and have access to it in case of an emergency. I do a google apps backup at https://spinbackup.com/products/google-apps-backup... every week because the data that I work with is critical to me. I hope that my comment will be helpful to you. Never forget to do a backup of your information, never.

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