If you’re not doing it now, you need to. Backing up your documents, music, pictures, and movies is one of the most important things that people neglect when it comes to their computers. Backing up is a task that no one thinks about until it is too late. That fateful day when your laptop is stolen, or the hard drive starts making that terrible grinding sound is the day we think about all of our data being gone.
When Apple released OS 10.5 Leopard they introduced a built-in backup solution called Time Machine. To use it you simply connect an external hard drive to your Mac and turn on Time Machine in your system preferences. That’s it. Everything is backed up for you automatically. If you’re using Leopard or Snow Leopard you have no excuse not to backup your data and need to do it today! Do it before the hard drive fairy comes and claims all of the important files on your computer (and that little guy doesn’t leave any money under your pillow either).
If you’re still on Tiger or an earlier OS, most external hard drives are going to have built-in backup software. Even though it’s not as easy to use, it’s still important to do and better than losing everything.
In addition to a physical copy of your hard drive, you should consider online backups. There are several services available, but I’m only going to talk about two: MobileMe and Mozy.
If you’re already using Apple’s $99 annual subscription service, then you’re halfway there. You just need to download and install Backup 3.1.2 for Tiger 10.4.2 and up. Get it from your iDisk in the Software folder. The first time you launch Backup it will offer backup packages for your most common items, and give you the option to select a custom package by choosing folders.
This is the easiest way to backup and restore a few gigs of storage. Apple’s native solutions are pretty smooth and work okay. That said, Apple’s Backup has one great disadvantage; backups, especially large ones, will take forever on that first one. Moreover, that initial backup is stored in several packets, so if you have to find a file it can be a bit tedious at times.
Mozy is another option for backing up your Mac (and PC). Mozy installs a preference pane in System Preferences app and runs in the background. A few advantages Mozy has over Apple’s Backup are: automatic and in the background (you don’t see it working), if you’re restoring a lot of data you can choose to purchase a DVD, and it’s smart enough to know when and how much to work by setting backup and bandwidth preferences.
Like Apple’s Backup, this is a paid service, but is quite inexpensive. For only $5 a computer, per month, you can backup your entire hard drive at a secure remote location deep within the recesses of some spooky mountain (in Colorado I think). What a minimal expense to know that if the world comes to an end through nuclear holocaust, being hit by the moon or just a bad day, your data will be safe and secure. Ahhh.
If you’re cheap (like me) and don’t want another monthly bill, or just want to try it out first, then at least sign up for a free account using this link and you’ll not only get the standard 2GB free account, but you and I will both get an extra 512MB of storage. I use my 2GB for backing up email, contacts, desktop files, my Mac’s keychain (VERY IMPORTANT), and a couple other things. Even though it doesn’t sound like much, it goes a long way. You could just use it to back up your documents folder giving you peace of mind knowing the important documents are safe.
Whether you’re using Time Machine, Mozy, Backup, or any combination thereof, make sure you’re using something. I’ve seen too many times someone being upset about losing files for any reason given above. The most valuable things to people are usually their photos because you cannot get those back. Don’t lose those things because you never took the time to do something so quick and easy to start.
Take 5 minutes now and sign up, plug-in, and backup!