These days, our backup options have multiplied beyond the old PC-oriented tape backup systems available for years. Today, there are four basic options:
Second Hard Drive: With the cost of hard drives getting so cheap, using a second hard drive to back up a primary hard drives is actually a great solution. However, not too many people actually plug a second drive into a secondary notebook drive bay even if it is supported. And very few people have mobile disk mirroring setups.
Tape: Tape drives have always had their place in IT shops, SOHO environments, and among some individual users (especially in the older days of personal computing), but even many old-timers have little patience for backing up their notebooks to tape.
PC Card Hard Drives: Some mobile users now carry 2GB to 10GB PC Card drives, and these can work well too.
USB Drives: For backing up selected files, the emerging class of diminutive USB-based storage dongle devices which now go up to as high as 1 gigabyte work well for storing certain key data.
Zip: While 100/250 ZIP disks continue to proliferate on desktops (and 750MB now available), not many people have external or internal ZIP drives for notebooks.
CDR/CDRW: Some newer notebooks now include CD burners, which can also make copies of key data and even create bootable CDs. But finding the right software can be tricky.
DVD: Writeable DVDs, likely DVD+RW will be more widespread in the future, and are certain to make it into many notebooks before too long.
Floppies: Not a big surprise, most notebooks users dont use floppies regularly anymore, because their systems typically only have room for two internal spindles usually CD and hard drive. Of course floppies are obnoxiously slow and have little capacity.
Network Backup: Some corporations have automatic network-based backup routines for notebooks, and others run Citrix-like terminal-server environments to keep user data secure and backed up at all times on corporate RAID systems. Except for notebook disk mirroring solutions, none of these backup options provides true disaster recovery for the traveling road warrior if their primary drive goes down and theres no access to the corporate network.
Backup strategies and requirements come in all shapes and sizes, so I wont attempt to recite all the ins and outs, because Joel Strauch covered the ground quite nicely in our two-part Backup Strategy story (Part I and Part II) earlier this year. Joel offered up much advice for designing a backup solution that fits individual needs, but it was mostly desktop-focused. He covered a range of backup hardware and software options in addition to backup strategies for desktops. While many of the recommendations can certainly work for mobile systems to some degree, they too fall short in the disaster recovery area.
Co-Founder, ExtremeTech Ex-Director, PC Magazine Labs
Nick is a founder of the ExtremeTech website. He worked with co-founder Bill Machrone designing the site, staffing up, and getting initial content developed for ET's formal launch on June 12, 2001. Nick was Senior Technical Director of ET until mid-2003, while concurrently performing duties in PC Magazine Labs.
Nick was a technical director in PC Labs from late 1991 through mid-2002, and was Lab Director from mid-2002 until March 2005. Prior to PC Magazine, Nick was in the computer industry in various development, systems engineering, and management roles since mid-1980, and he received an MS in Computer Science from SUNY Binghamton.
In March 2005, Nick decided it was time to leave Ziff Davis Media (parent of PC Magazine and ExtremeTech) to pursue other opportunities, but wishes all the best to the ET and PC Magazine staff and reader communities!
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