Backups. You would think in this day and age people, especially businesses, would be aware of how important it is to make sure you have redundant, reliable backups.

The last 2 weeks I have encountered 2 hard drive failures with 2 different businesses. In one case I was not contacted until the system would no longer boot. In the other I told them I needed to see the computer a month ago but they waited until it too would no longer boot before getting it to me.

In both cases there was an automatic backup to a second drive in the computer. In both cases the failure of the primary drive caused the backups to be corrupted. If I had been able to examine the computers when the symptoms first started I probably could have saved their data, programs and backups. By waiting until there was total failure they reduced my options for recovery to nearly nill.

One company got lucky. I was able to restore an old backup and then recover the newer data from the failing drive just moments before it totally failed. The other company lost nearly everything.

What could have been done to prevent these situations? First, I needed to see the system when symptoms first appeared. When systems start doing weird things like crashing or locking up, waiting until you can’t use them anymore before calling me is NOT the correct procedure.

Also, having more than one backup location is pretty important. One must assume the worst. I personally have 3 different hard drives I backup to plus putting some of my more important stuff in a cloud backup like Google Drive or Dropbox.

For a business you should have a RAID array (2 hard drives that act as one so if one fails you still have the other), an internal automatic daily backup and at least one external backup.

For home users you should at least be backing up your important stuff to a flash drive or external hard drive. Flash drives are cheap and external hard drives aren’t expensive. If you aren’t backing up you WILL lose your stuff. It’s only a matter of when.

Solid State Drives

About a year ago I put a solid state drive (SSD) in to my system and I was stunned at how big a difference it made in performance and boot up time. Prices for SSDs have continued to drop and I have started to offer them in my basic computers with very impressive results.

In spite of the fact that traditional mechanical hard drives keep getting faster they still aren’t fast enough to not be a major bottleneck in performance. Solid state drives being completely electronic with no moving parts eliminate this bottleneck, even on older computers.

The only drawback to SSDs is cost per gigabyte. A traditional hard drive 1 terabyte (1000 gigabytes) in size costs about $100. A 120 gigabyte SSD runs about $130 for 880 fewer gigabytes. The SSD is MUCH faster but only has about 10% of the storage of the traditional hard drive.

However, most of my customers are only using 50-60 gigabytes, on average, even with pictures and games so 120 gigs is plenty of space. Even if you are using over 100 gigs you could get an external traditional 1 terabyte hard drive and off-load data to it to make a 120 gig drive usable.

The performance gains when using an SSD are nothing short of amazing. 7 – 10 seconds to boot up Windows 7. Applications like Word or Excel snap open briskly in 2-3 seconds. Everything you do is quick and responsive. Simply put, the computer works the way you have always wanted/expected it to work. Quick without any undue hesitation.

The only thing an SSD might not help is Internet web site speeds because that’s more a product of your Internet connect speed and ISP quality than computer speed.

If you want a fairly cheap method of upgrading your computers speed look in to getting an SSD. Cost to do this is about $200.