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Data Storage

Inner view of a Seagate 3.5 inches hard disk d...I remember in 1994, I was working as a systems administrator for a Wall Street firm when the first 1 gigabyte Seagate hard drive arrived. All the sys admins dropped what we were doing and rushed to the lab, to gaze in awe at this miraculous device. “Can you believe it?” someone remarked, “they’ve managed to fit an entire gigabyte on a single hard drive!

I imagine this anecdote is amusing even to the non-geeks out there. My iPhone has 16 GB of storage, and that’s not even the top of the line. Terabyte hard drives – a thousand gigabytes – are now available for $100 or less — considerably less than the 1 gig drive we ogled like a fan perched at the velvet rope for a glimpse of his favorite superstar actress. Large format hard drives are marvelous; we can store digital pictures, movies, MP3s of our favorite songs with ease, and room to spare.

Of course, the more we store on a single device, the more we stand to lose if (and when) that device fails. Although modern computers are infinitely more stable and dependable than the clunky boxes we were using in the ’90s, hard drives are the parts most likely to fail simply because they have the most moving parts, and those parts are moving all the time. How do we protect ourselves against data loss, when we’re storing hundreds – or thousands – of gigabytes??

Back in the 1990s, we backed up data on 8 millimeter tape. This was fine when 10 or 20 gigabytes was a large backup set, but simply won’t do for a Small Business backing up ten times that — or a hundred times as much! The simplest method we recommend is to use an external hard drive unit – attachable via USB connection – as the target of your computer’s built-in backup utility. While this is the typical method most Small Businesses use, when they DO backup their critical data, we suggest a twist – backup your data about once a week, and detach the external hard drive between backups, storing it in a safe location away from the computer you’re backing up.

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