Great backup software is available for freeUnderstanding the importance of backing up your computer is easy, but when you finally make the decision to do it, there are a few choices to make - and probably a little confusion, as well.
In reality, backing up a PC is not difficult, nor is it expensive. It takes only a few minutes a day to get the job done. When you first start a backup system however, you may need to set aside a few hours just to get it set up, and to do a first-time full backup.

It's important to understand the difference between a full backup and an incremental backup. A full backup copies everything on the disk, including system files, program files, and even configuration files and the operating system. This will take more time, but you don' have to do it often—only when you add software or upgrade your OS. The incremental backup is usually done on a daily basis, or at least two or three times a week. This simply backs up files that have been changed since the last backup.

The first question you face is, where to back up your data to? One solution is to back up data to a separate partition on your hard disk. This is useful if an individual file gets lost or corrupted, but it offers little protection against hard drive failure, theft, or other types of disasters. Backing up to a separate hard drive partition is not protection - it only offers an extra element of convenience. Even if you do back up to your own hard drive, backup must simultaneously be done to an external media.

But there is still another question to answer. Backing up to an external media may protect you in case of computer failure, but if that external media is on your desk next to your PC, or in your laptop case, you will not be protected in case of natural disaster or theft. This is where a secondary backup to an offsite backup storage facility becomes useful.

There is the question of virtual offsite storage services, which allow you to back up your files online. These services typically provide you with easy, secure access to your files through a Web-based interface. This gives you the added convenience of being able to access your files from any location, from any computer, anywhere in the world. However, this also raises the question of the procedures used by the third party provider, how rigorous their security protocols are, and whether the service bureau itself uses redundant storage in case of a failure of their own. One must also consider what would happen if the third party provider were to go out of business. Before considering this option, make sure they offer a detailed, written service level agreement. The best scenario would be to implement a dual backup protocol of your own, first backing up files incrementally to an external media which is kept on site, and also backing up to an offsite facility, which can be an online storage service, or another physical location that is separate from your main computer's location.

Backing up your PC has never been easier with such a wide choice of backup software out there. It also doesn't have to cost you a penny, because there are plenty of providers from where you can download free backup software that has all the bells and whistles you need... and then some!