By Scott Dunn
Floppy disks, tape, Zip drives, DAT drives, optical storage, NAS drives, and beyond — your backup options, past and present, can be mind-boggling.
These days, the most convenient backup medium is an external hard drive — it’s quick, easy, and automated — but it’s never good to put all of your archives in one basket.
Hard drives fail, often unexpectedly, so the best long-term storage solution should include both hard drives and some form of removable medium. Your backup strategy should include keeping a copy offsite in the event that both your PC and your local backup disk are destroyed through fire, theft, or natural disaster.
Fortunately, most modern backup media, including external hard drives, come in movable form. Picking the right medium can be complicated and potentially costly, though, and there’s no single best solution.
If you work at the enterprise level, your company undoubtedly has a suitably sophisticated backup system in place. But for PC users in small businesses and home offices, comparing the costs and benefits of various backup media is an important first step to securing your data.
Hard-drive docking: new life for old drives
Many of us have perfectly good hard disk drives from old, discarded computers. A number of HDD docking stations are available that support 2.5″ or 3.5″ SATA hard drives. Just plug the station into a USB port and you can swap older SATA drives in and out of the station as needed. For example, an Arkview product page shows a model that is both a docking station and media card reader, and it sells for a mere U.S. $30.
- Pros: Drives can be swapped out without powering down first, letting you use them like gigantic floppy disks. Organize archived data by placing different file types on different drives — photos on one, music on another, financial information on a third. Old hard drives are faster than optical drives, have larger capacities, and are much less expensive per megabyte.