In spite of our constant warnings, almost every month at least one of our clients experiences a data loss due to weak backup strategies. The biggest single impediment to routine backups is the time that it takes, so we would like to review a few of the new technologies that are making backups easier.


Right now, the emerging backup standard seems to be the CD-Writer. These units can write data to special types of CDs that hold 500-700 megabytes of data. Most standard CD-ROM drives can in turn read this data as necessary. The main disadvantage of this media in the past was speed, but with write speeds from 24x to 40x this has now been overcome and they are quite fast.


These units generally run from $150 to $200 each with rewriteable media going for about $2. per CD-RW disk. Media that can be recorded once only is less expensive at about $1. per CD-R disk. One advantage of CD-R disks is that they can be rendered readable in any normal CD-Rom drive. CD-RW disks can usually only be read in another CD-Writer or DVD-Writer Drive.


This low cost makes CD backups very economical and easily allows for multiple generations of backups, which is always desirable. In fact, some of our clients have opted to save their backups daily on CD-R disks with one disk backing up each day or an entire week of data in separate folders. Once used, these disks are labelled and put on the shelf, in case they are ever required.


These units can also make copies of other CDs for backup purposes and otherwise perform all the duties of a normal CD-Rom. For full system backups CD Writers will work well in conjunction with the right software. On large systems data compression may be required to fit entire systems on one disk.


Along the same idea as the CD-Writer, the DVD-Writer looks and works almost the same way but has about 10 times the capacity. Unfortunately this technology is still quite new and the cost and speed are not yet up to par. Far fewer computers have DVD drives capable of reading the disks as well. This is an emerging technology that will increase in popularity as these issues are addressed.




One of my other favourites thus far is the ZIP Drive. A zip drive is not that much different than a diskette drive, but it is many times faster and each zip disk holds 100 to 250 megabytes of data as compared to 1.4 megabytes on a single 3 diskette.


In tests at several clients, data backups that took 10-20 diskettes completed on one zip disk in less time than it took to backup a single diskette. The speed alone more than justifies the cost and you get improved protection from more frequent backups.


Zip drives cost about $150, with the disks going for around $15. When you compare the speed and capacity of the zip disks they really are a bargain when compared to diskette backups. For routine data only backups these are an excellent choice. They can be installed on any Pentium, or faster, computer with an available IDE connection.


The next step up in backup and storage media are the Jazz drives with 2GB of storage capacity. These are excellent for drive imaging and complete system backups. Windows based computers quickly use up hard disk space and these units can be good insurance against hardware failure and the cost of reloading fifty software programs.

These units cost between $500 & $600 with disk media running from $50 to $100 each.


Restoring a full Windows based system can be a long and tedious process. New backup software can make this process much less painful. If you make a full system backup you can install it on a new drive in a fraction of the time it would take to reload everything.


For very high capacity backups, digital tape is still your best bet for capacities over 2GB. These can be setup on a server to backup automatically, but need to be monitored.