It has happened to us all at some time or another: A power outage while saving a file, an accidental late-night deletion of a valuable file, or the dreaded hard-drive failure. What is the best option available to us to handle these situations?
Fortunately, the best option for handling the above situations is often the easiest to implement, and the most cost effective. Of course, I am talking about backing up your data. This could be, and usually only has to be, as simple as copying your important documents and files to a USB drive. In this instance, it is just a case of plugging in your shiny new USB hard drive, and copying your precious data over to this drive.
So when should you back up? The general rule is you should back up when you can no longer justify the time to recreate the work you've done since you last backed up. In this, we can also see that the more valuable the work, the more often you should be taking a copy of it to your backup drive. In addition to that, in some circumstances, such as in running a home business, you may want multiple copies: A regular backup at home to guard against the above issues, and an offsite backup to gaurd against large catastrophes such as fire, flood and theft. Again, it boils down to the more important the data, the more you should do to safeguard it.
One application that I like that can greatly simplify your backup process is Toucan. It is a lightweight, feature packed piece of software that is available for free. Thats right, free.
- Download the Toucan installer from here, and run. The install is relatively straight forward. The only option that I would suggest setting manually is the install location, to something like "c:\Toucan".
- As Toucan is technically a portable application, it does not create a shortcut. You can do this manually quite easily by right clicking your desktop, hovering over
"New", and selecting "Shortcut", using c:\Toucan\Toucan.exe as the target.
- Once you have a shortcut, go ahead and fire up Toucan. At first sight, it may appear complicated, but it is in fact quite simple once you get used to it!
- In our example, we'll assume that we want to back up the entire contents of our My Documents folder to our USB drive, in this case drive D:. To start, find your Documents folder in the lower right pane, then click the plus sign to the right of this pane. This will move it into the Files to Backup pane on the right of this. On Windows 7 and 8, your Documents folder is located in c:\Users\John Smith\Documents.
- Next, you need to specify where to back the files up to. To do this, click the button labelled "..." and browse to your USB drive, D: in our case. You will also need to specify a name in this dialog. Using the current date is a good choice, especially if you want to be able to retrieve at older versions
- At it's simplest, that is all we need to do. You can click "Run" and the backup will be completed.
Toucan is a powerful application with many features, and can allow you to password protect your backups, encrypt them, perform differential backups (where only what has changed is included in each subsequent backup,) as well as maintaining complete working mirrors that only update new files. I'll let you find out about these features on your own travels, but, as always, make sure you backup before playing!