It’s not too often that I write a post designed for the consumer, actually to my recollection I have never written anything with mom and dad in mind. Even though we are geared more towards businesses, we still do a relatively large amount of consumer services. With that said, the usual problems that we deal with on a regular basis are usually a completely failed hard drive from which no data is recoverable or drives that have so many bad sectors that it becomes almost impossible to load the files needed to get windows operational. In the latter situation it is usually possible to clone the drive to a brand new drive with little to no data loss, the former however usually results in a lot of sad faces and the occasional tears when customers learn that the hard drive has physically failed and there is no practical/ affordable way to recover their years of pictures or large media collection.
When these awkward situations occur I usually use that time to gently educate customers on the value of having a good back up solution. The problem is most of the back up software available has traditionally been a bit difficult for the average user to set up correctly and worse yet the applications that do provide full disk incremental or differential back ups are often very difficult to restore the image, then of course there the issue of managing the back up images, for example how often should you do a full disk back up, or how long should you keep a full disk and or differential backup ? Oddly enough there are entire books written on the topic but they are pretty much geared towards the IT professional or at the minimum the PC Power User.
The good news? there are lots of great back up solutions, one of our favorite and most highly recommended is Microsoft’s Windows Home Server, this is full blown back up solutions that is perfect for home users, and to a certain limited extent even small businesses can take advantage of it. Its biggest claim to fame? simple it makes backing up all the Windows and Macs in your home a breeze, once connected to the server via a simple client that is installed through a web browser the server automatically performs a full disk back up the first night a computer is connected to it, after that it automatically differential backups, and once a week will do another full disk back up, basically ensuring that you always have the ability to restore a file or a complete system back to it’s previous state as of 12 hours before.