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How to protect your Data against Disaster.

When it comes to backing up, people are often tempted to go for the cheapest option (it won't happen to me anyway, right?), but don't fall into that trap.
Chances are that your computer contains a mass of valuable data. From irreplaceable family photographs to critical business documents, most computers contain data that their owners wouldn't want to lose.

To protect their data from loss, many people choose to back up their data to an external hard drive. This is a quick, easy and, with storage prices steadily dropping, a reasonably cheap way to store a copy of your important files. But is it enough? Not really. While an external hard drive will certainly protect your data against loss due computer failure, it will *not* protect it against loss due to disaster. Should you be unlucky enough to experience a serious fire or flood, there is a strong possibility that both your computer and external hard drive will be damaged beyond repair. To reduce the risk of this happening, you could store your external drive in a fireproof and waterproof safe when it's not in use or create an additional set of backups on a second drive and store that away from your home, but neither is a convenient or inexpensive option.

So, what's the solution? The best way to protect your data against loss is to use best-in-class solutions and not to put all your eggs in one basket.

For example, ioSafe make a range of disaster-proof external hard drives that can withstand being submerged in up to 10 feet of water for 3 days and temperatures of up to 1550 F for 30 minutes. As an added precaution, the drives can even be bolted to the floor to secure them against theft. Note that the drives are unlikely to be working after they have been burned or drowned, but the data on them will nonetheless still be recoverable. Should your drive be damaged, you simply ship it back to ioSafe (they pay the postage) and the company will recover your data and send it back to you on a new drive. With prices starting at $149 for a 500 GB drive, ioSafes are a bit more expensive than other drives, but not that much more expensive – and the security features certainly justify the extra few bucks.

While an ioSafe will certainly do more to protect your data than a standard external hard drive, it's still not a perfect solution (remember what I said about not putting all your eggs in one basket?). Like all mechanical and electrical devices, an external hard drives will eventually fail – possibly catastrophically. Additionally, the ioSafe isn't completely immune to disasters – houses fires can and do exceed the ioSafe's 1550 limit. Consequently, in order for your data to be completely protected, you need to store a copy of it away from your home – and the easiest way to do that is to use an online backup service. But be sure to shop around and choose a well-established service provider that will still be in business next week, next month and next year.

When it comes to backing up, people are often tempted to go for the cheapest option (it won't happen to me anyway, right?), but don't fall into that trap. Choose the combination of solutions that will provide your data with the best possible protection. It'll be money well spent.

About the author: Brett Callow is a Vancouver Island-based technical consultant, trainer and writer providing services to leading international technology companies and has been extensively involved in the planning and development of various industry standard IT certification examinations.

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