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Which Back Up Method is the Best?

- By Bob Twain

Since several subscribers wanted to know which type of back up system was the best, I decided to write a follow up article.

If you haven’t read my first article yet… you should check it out now:

Is Your POS Software Data Vulnerable Because of These Common Mistakes?

For the rest of you, let’s discuss some different back up methods and which one is best for you.

There are lots of ways to back up your computer data. Some methods are reliable, some are fast, some are easy and some are expensive. To help you choose the best method for your business, I created a list of popular backup methods and the pros and cons of each.

Here’s a quick run down of the different methods to back up your POS data:

Off-site Back Ups
Off-site back ups popped up all over the internet with the advent of broadband (high speed) internet access. With off-site backups, your POS data is compressed and sent over the internet to another server (off-site).

Off-site back up solutions make it easy to send your data to a safe location, so you can retrieve it anytime. But it’s slow and has a limited capacity. So you’ll probably need another backup solution to protect the rest of your system.

Reliability – Reliability is average. It’s only as good as your internet access. If your internet is down, your back up won’t run.

Performance – It’s slow. Even if you have high speed internet access it could take several hours just to back up a few hundred megabytes of your POS data.

Capacity – It depends on your service but it’s probably not practical to back up your entire hard drive. A few hundred megabytes would be feasible.

Convenience – It’s easy to setup and maintain. All you need is internet access and a small piece of software. You don’t have to mess with tapes, configure hardware or fix broken tape drives. And since you don’t have to take tapes home, you can’t forget!

Price – Depending on the service you use, the price can add up because you have to pay a monthly fee. But for some people, it’s definitely worth the convenience. The rates range from $3 to $800 a month.

Helpful links:
Mozy is a good internet backup tool and it's free! You can read about it here.

For more tools, go to and type “offsite backup”. You’ll find all kinds of solutions.

Tape Back Ups
Tape back ups have been the “medium of choice” for years. New tapes will hold large amounts of data (up to 140 gigabytes), they fit in your pocket, and they’re affordable enough to buy 3 to 6 tapes to rotate each day.

The actual tapes are similar to the “music tapes” that you probably used back in the 80s. They have evolved quite a bit, but the concept is the same. Tapes cartridges are inserted into tape drives that will read or write information to the tape.

New technology is slowing pushing tapes away, but tapes are still one of the best ways to back up your data.

Reliability – The reliability of tape drives will vary (depending on the price). But overall the reliability is good.

Performance – The speed is good. Transfer rates range from 15 GB per hour to 43 GB per hour.

Capacity – Very good (12 to 140 GB)

Convenience – Average. The installation can be tricky. And you have to remember to rotate the tapes. But once you get everything configured and get into a routine, it’s not too bad.

Price – Average. You can buy tape drives that will work on a small network for a few hundred dollars. But they range from $150 to $8000! And don’t forget about buying a few tapes. They will cost $20 to $80.

Helpful links – High end tape drives. – Low and high end tape drives.

Zip Drives
Zip drives were popular in the past because they're cheap and easy to use. Zip drives are still available, but not many people use them because CDRWs are found in most new PCs.

Zip drives are similar to the old “floppy drive” but they hold a lot more data (100 to 750 megabytes of data). That might seem like a lot of space, but that's probably not enough to hold all your data. So you might have to swap media or only back up a small portion of your hard drive. (Not a good idea.)

Reliability – Good.

Performance – Average. They don’t hold very much, so it can’t take too long.

Capacity – Low (100 to 750 megabytes)

Convenience – Very good. They are small and easy to use.

Price – Very low. Drives cost $75 to $200. And the media only costs a few bucks.

Helpful links: – Leading provider of Zip Drives and plenty of information.

External Hard Drive
External hard drives are handy because they will connect to your computer through a USB or Firewire cable. They’re very fast and hold huge amounts of data (20 to 250 GB)! The only problem is that it’s expensive to buy 4 or 5 drives for a back up rotation. And they’re a little bulky to carry around.

Reliability – Very good.

Speed – Extremely fast (87 GB to 112 GB per hour).

Convenience – Average. They are large and bulky. But the installation and configuration is usually straight forward.

Capacity – Very high (20 GB to 250 GB)

Price – High (if you buy more than one). Each external hard drive will cost $150 to $350. And don’t forget that you’ll need at least two drives so you can rotate your back ups and take one home.

Helpful links: – Leading provider of external hard drives and plenty of information.

CDRW (Compact Disc – Re-writeable)
CDRW’s are simply CDs that can be written over and over. They're cheap, handy and found in most PCs. Because of that, lots of people use them for back ups.

Reliability - Average. They’re easily scratched and prone to buffer under-runs.

Performance – Average.

Capacity – Poor. They only hold about 650 MB

Convenience – Average. They are popular and easy to use. But setting them up for automated back ups can be tricky.

Price – Very low. You can pick them up for under $100. And re-writeable CDs cost under a dollar.

DVD-RW (Digital Versatile Disc – Re-writeable)
DVD-RWs are new devices that are very similar to CDRWs but hold a lot more data.

Reliability – Average.

Performance – Average. The technology is new and they’re a little slower than CDRWs.

Capacity – Good (2 to 17 GB)

Convenience – Average. The media comes in several different formats and can cause confusion. Things will get better when these devices become more popular.

Price – A DVD-RW drive will cost around $250

Technically, this isn’t a “back up” method, but it’s a good way keep your server running reliably. Especially on larger networks.

RAID means redundant array of inexpensive disks.. The simplest form of RAID technology is “Mirroring”. It’s just like to sounds. RAID mirroring technology allows you to have 2 identical hard drives working in your server simultaneously. Both hard drives are updated in real-time so you always have an extra copy of your data.

It’s a great way to keep your server running, but you still need another back up solution so you can take your data home. Here are the pros and cons of RAID...

  • No need to restore data. (Zero down time)
  • No need to swap media.
  • Holds large amounts of data
  • Fast (instant)

  • Expensive
  • Difficult to configure
  • There is nothing to take home. So you still need another back up solution to take home.

    Helpful Links: - This isn’t RAID, but it’s a cheap and handy program that will synchronize your hard drive over the network or to another internal hard drive. – They offer RAID PCI controller cards that are fairly easy for a professional to setup and configure.

    There you have it. The most popular back up methods and their pros and cons.

    In my opinion, if you want one back up system to handle everything, then tapes drives are the way to go. They hold plenty of data, the tapes will fit in your pocket, and you can buy a tape drive and 3 tapes for a few hundred dollars.

    I also like external hard drives because of their speed and capacity, but they're too expensive to buy more than one or two.

    For maximum protection, you should utilize more than one back up solution. For example, you could use FileBack PC to automatically copy your POS data to another computer every 15 minutes. In addition, you could back up to an external hard drive and take it home every night.

    There's no perfect "one size fits all" solution. But hopefully this will clarify a few things so you can decide which type of back up solution is best for you.

    Don’t forget. It’s not a matter of "if your system will crash?"... it’s a matter of "when your system will crash?"

    To Your Success.

    Bob Twain

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