External Harddrive Backup

One of my good friends just emailed me:

Ferg,
I want to get an external hard drive to back up our desktop (pictures, music, files, etc.). I don’t know much about them though. Can you point me in the right direction? Where is the best place to buy? Local or online? How large of one do you think we need?

Your options are pretty basic: who makes it, how big the drive is, what kind of connection to the drive, and what kind of software does it come with.

I would pick a drive from a more reputable company (Western Digital, Maxtor, LaCie).

How much space you need depends on what you’re storing and how much. Plan on:

100 Photos = 0.3 gigabytes
100 Minutes of DV Video = 25 gigabytes
100 Minutes of Music (~33 songs) = 0.1 gigabytes
100 Word documents = .05 gigabytes

You’ll want either a Firewire or USB 2.0 connection so that transfer speeds are relatively fast.

I’ve never really been big on the software side of backing up. Drag and drop seems to work pretty fine and that way you know that everything is backed up.

In terms of ideal backup techniques: backups should be done regularly, on different types of media, stored in different locations (the trifecta of backing up, if you will). Thus, you also might consider burning copies of photos/video and anything else of extreme importance onto DVD and keeping a copy at work. Mostly in case someone where to steal your original or God forbid the house were to burn down (not trying to scare you, honest!).

There are ways to automate many of these processes that I would love to help you with.

One final idea is using an online storage company to backup data. You end up paying a monthly fee, but they take care of making offsite backups (i.e. you upload files to their servers which they then backup in various locales around the US).

Update: Added title