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How to Create a Consumer-Grade Backup Plan

When we think of data backup plans, most of us immediately think of small businesses and large-scale enterprises. For entities like this, routine data backup is essential. In an emergency, it could mean the difference between doing "business as usual" and closing the doors for good.

However, most consumers don't understand the importance of backing up their own files. In many cases, like commercial games and software, you don't necessarily need to backup every single file. Simply backing up your personal files, such as saved games and custom settings, is good enough. If you should lose the games or apps themselves, you can always reinstall them from a disc or re-download them from the Internet.

But what do you do with the rest of your files? Depending on your usage, you could have important photos, beloved MP3s, rare videos, and even important business or personal documents. How do you establish a routine backup schedule for files like this?

Starting and Executing Your Backup Plan

First, try to separate your files into specific directories. As an example, personal saved game files can be placed in a directory labeled "Saved Games" while custom settings for an application can be placed into a directory labeled "Apps." You can do this with the rest of your files, too; place your images in a directory called "Images," videos in a directory called "Videos," and so on.

The next step is to determine your specific backup schedule. In an enterprise or business setting, files might be backed up once per day or even several times within a 24-hour period. Although a frequent backup schedule like this probably isn't necessary for your personal files, it does provide you with even more protection. Most importantly, try to pick a time of the day that doesn't interfere with your regular, everyday computing, as it's best to leave your system alone while it's performing the backup.

Next, determine a backup location. While this could be a secondary hard drive installed in a computer, it's best to use an external, removable source; like an external HD or USB thumb drive. This lets you disconnect the device from your system when it's not in use and, if necessary, store it in a remote location for safekeeping. Depending on the size of your files and your Internet bandwidth, you might even be able to utilize an online repository to store your backups.

Once you've chosen a specific schedule and location, all you have to do is sit back and wait until the backup begins. Most operating systems, including those for Windows and Mac operating systems, feature built-in functionality that allows for automated backups.

As an alternative to the built-in features, you might consider using a third-party app. There are plenty to choose from, including utilities that will backup an entire HD via disk imaging. Although this isn't required for the average computer user, power users will likely find some use in the advanced functionality offered by such software. If you do choose to go this route, do some research beforehand to make sure you're using legitimate software from a reputable developer.


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