OT: External HD sizing - other options (long)

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Posted by Peter ( on 09:46:27 05/16/08

In Reply to: OT: External HD sizing posted by Marty

Let me take a step back and ask what you are trying to achieve. If you are looking for a simple process to backup the entire disk image so you can restore the entire image, then Ghost is a reasonable option.

That said, I don't recommend imaging as a regular primary form of backup if you are an average user. I have gotten several calls from friends recently complaining about sluggish or degrading PC performance. You probably have complaints about your current PC too. Why would you take an image of that computer? So that you can restore back to an image of your computer that you know was running poorly when you created the backup? It makes no sense to me.

Many performance or "odd" problems are solved by restoring back to a "clean" image or reloading with the vendor provided "restore" disks and then reloading programs and data as needed. The downside to this is that anything unlicensed will be a major pain to reload if possible at all. Even some of our wonderful Microsoft products may require a call to clear registration hurdles.

This still leaves the issue of backing up your data and other files and settings. For this, I recommend using an external drive or optionally, an Internet hosting service. You can use some cheap software like SmartSync ($30) which keeps two copies of your files in sync locally (to another directory or USB drive) or across a network or via FTP. It only copies updated files and does it in the background on a schedule and unattended. If you prefer the Internet file hosting service, there are many to choose from. Some charge for fixed amounts of storage($10/5GB/month) and others charge based on usage ($0.50/GB/month). Check out www.Mozy.com. They offer personal storage for free under 2GB, unlimited space for $5/month. I also know a reseller that handles online business storage accounts.

Much of this boils down to what you have to backup and why you are backing it up. My kids each have about 2-4GB of storage on a shared PC. I make backups of their files ("My Documents") a couple of times a year just by burning a DVD. I do the same with my files. I have co-workers that have over 100GB of photos. For them, the DVD plan is not as helpful since you would also need a library to keep track of all of those DVDs. They often use mirrored drives or external drives of equal or greater capacity. Even then, the external drives only keep of copy of the data - not the programs and operating system.

Here is my recommendation for the average PC owner(echoing some generally accepted practices):

1. When you setup a new computer (or one that is running well), use something like Norton Ghost to make a full image backup. You can even put together a boot CD or DVD that will let you backup directly to the DVD burner.

2. If you installed many programs to add the functionality you require beyond the original computer setup, you may want to take a second backup image at this point. You will probably need a few DVDs to fit it all.

Put your full image backups somewhere safe and away from the computer. A flood or tornado that kills the computer will do the same to the backups so consider keeping the backup at work or at the kids/grandparents house.

3. Once you have used a computer for awhile, it is generally not worth making a full image backup. Too much crap gets stored/deleted/corrupted on your PC that you just don't want to consider backing up. This is where you want to consider syncing or copying your files to another drive (Internet, internal, external or even flash/thumb drive). Keep track of where you (and other users on the PC) store stuff. Add these directories to the configuration of the software used for the synchronization.

I hope this helps. Something I keep in mind is that my brother's house was robbed and they stole his laptop. No big deal since he had an external drive with a full back of his files - right? Sadly, no. That external drive was sitting on the desk next to the laptop and was also stolen. Everything was gone.

Good luck and feel free to email/post if you have questions.

- Peter

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