Q: We have six new computers running Windows 8 with about 400 gigabytes of data in total. We are looking for a backup solution that requires no monthly or annual fees, and little effort. Does such a solution exist?
A: Before addressing your question, I feel obligated to tell you that I prefer online-based, continuous-encrypted backup solutions, which do require monthly fees, because they are safe from theft, fire, and other local disasters. Vendors such as Carbonite (carbonite.com), Mozy (mozy.com), CrashPlan (crashplan.com), Backblaze (backblaze.com), and SOS Online Backup (sosonlinebackup.com) offer monthly and annual plans priced from approximately $2 to $60 per month and $300 to $2,100 per year to back up anywhere from one to unlimited computers and as little as 10 GBs to as much as unlimited amounts of data.
Having said that, perhaps you should consider purchasing an external USB 3.0 hard drive (with approximately 1- to 2-terabyte (TB) storage capacity) and using backup software to regularly back up your data. Presented below are a few comments about this type of solution.
1. USB 3.0. A USB-based solution makes more sense now because the new USB 3.0 standard, which is supported by Windows 8, is 10 times faster than the older USB 2.0 standard.
This means you can back up your Windows 8 computers to an external USB 3.0 device approximately 10 times faster. For example, a backup that once took six hours can now be completed in just 36 minutes. (If your computer has USB 2.0 ports or if you are using the Windows 7 operating system (or older), which does not support USB 3.0, this tip still works, but it works much slower.)
2. USB storage devices. A quick search on Amazon.com reveals that 1- to 2-TB external USB storage devices are priced from $49 to $149. As an example, I recently paid $99 for a 2-TB Western Digital USB 3.0 “My Passport” storage device, pictured below.
3. Device installation. Installing an external USB device is fairly easy; plug in the cable, and your computer will recognize and set up the device automatically.
4. Windows 8 backup utility. To set up a backup schedule using Windows 8’s built-in backup utility, select Windows 7 File Recovery (you read that correctly, in Windows 8 this tool is referred to as “Windows 7 File Recovery”) from the Control Panel window and click the Set up backup option.
Select the USB drive as the backup destination, and then click Next.
Select the data file locations to be backed up, and then click Next. Select Set up schedule, check the box labeled Run backup on a schedule, adjust the settings to back up either daily, weekly, or monthly, and then click OK.
Thereafter, Microsoft Windows 8 will back up the selected data files according to the selected destination and schedule. ( Note: Depending on the computer manufacturer’s setting, some users encounter problems such as that the Windows backup utility does not support partitions larger than 500 MBs or the backup utility fails to wake up from sleep at the appointed backup time. Continue reading for alternative backup software suggestions.
5. Alternative backup solution. My Western Digital storage device included backup software called WD SmartWare. One advantage to using the device’s backup utility is that I can back up my data files by “file type” rather than “file location.” This utility also allows me to password-protect my device using a password other than my Windows login password (for an added layer of protection). Steps for setting up the WD SmartWare backup software are as follows:
a. Install the utilities. From the USB external drive, navigate to the WD Apps for Windows folder and launch the file named WD SmartWare Setup (x64), as pictured below, to install the utilities.
b. Launch the backup utility. From Windows, launch the WD SmartWare backup utility, as pictured below.
c. Select backup method and start backup. On the SmartWare screen, indicate whether you want to back up by category, which means backing up all data file types (which is my preference), or back up by specific files and folders. Click the Start Backup button to initiate the first backup as pictured below.
d. Set backup schedule. Once the first backup is complete, relaunch WD SmartWare. From the Backup tab, click the Set Backup Frequency button and adjust your settings as desired to back up continuously, daily, only on specific days, or monthly, as pictured below.
If your USB device does not include automated backup software, you can download and use any of the free scheduling-based backup solutions (shown in Exhibit 1), which work with any external USB 3.0 storage device.
Additional Backup Comments
1. Rotate two USB storage devices. If you use a local USB storage device backup solution, consider purchasing two such devices and rotate them weekly between your office and an off-site location to better protect data against theft or fire.
2. Combine cloud backup with USB storage. To bolster your USB device backup strategy, consider also backing up current-year files on one of the less-expensive, online-based backup solutions mentioned earlier.
3. Complete computer backup. Depending on the
complexity of your setup and applications employed, consider backing
up your entire computer periodically, including operating system,
applications, and configuration settings. One approach is to launch
the Windows 8 backup utility as described in Step 4 earlier, and then
select Create a system image to initiate the process.