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Posted on Mar 23, 2010 in Backup, Planning A Backup | 0 comments

Case Study – A simple, cost effective backup solution for a student

Starting a college or university course is a big step for anyone of any age. For many, it means moving away from home for the first time and finding accommodation, managing with limited funds and possibly balancing study with part time work. With all these new considerations it’s no big surprise that new students often don’t consider backing up their work, or simply consider it too expensive or time consuming. However, with the price of mass-storage at an all time low and with backup software easier to use than ever before, backup isn’t something students can afford to ignore. If you lose your university work due to human error or even a hard drive failure, your college/university is unlikely to grant you an extension on your deadlines. Implement your backup strategy now before it’s too late.

Make the most of what’s free

Before we start spending money on a backup solution, we should remind you that when you are on a tight budget (and even when you’re not) it never hurts to make the most of the free resources available to you. For example, many universities offer free storage space to students on their network. This network space should be regularly backed up and is a great place to store backup copies of your assignments. Often this network space can be accessed from university accommodation or across the internet, so be sure to make use of this facility if it is available.

Get yourself some free online storage too. It’s secure and can be accessed anywhere there is an internet connection. Dropbox offers 2 gigabytes of online storage for free, if you refer your friends you can earn extra storage space up to 5 gigabytes. You can access your Dropbox wherever there is an internet connection available which makes it an ideal solution for transporting files to and from campus. Of course, 2 to 5 gigabytes of storage space won’t be enough for everyone, but for students who primarily produce written work, 2 gigabytes will store a lot of essays.

Let’s not forget the freshers fair either. While you are signing up for societies and clubs and amassing as many freebies as possible, watch out for free storage. Many companies now give away USB stick/pen drives with promotional material on them. Once you’ve watched the adverts the storage space can be used for your own work.

USB Port

USB ports are found on all modern computers

A backup solution for a student

For this case study, we are going to go for the easiest and most cost effective solution for backup. This solution will work with both desktop and laptop computers. We’ll assume that the student in question already has a computer, a standard model with one hard drive. We will be using an external USB hard drive as a backup medium. It would also be possible to use a SATA or E-SATA drive, USB hard drives are widely available and excellent value for money.

When choosing a USB hard drive, remember that some drives need an external power supply to function, whereas other drives do not. Typically the drives that need an external power supply are cheaper but physically bigger. If you intend to leave the drive in your house or flat, then usually this isn’t a problem. If your course requires you to produce very big files (for example computer art or music courses) then you may wish to buy a smaller drive that you can access on campus (assuming your college/university allows this). However, it’s always better to have a dedicated drive for backup if your budget will allow it.

For backup software, we chose Oops Backup. This easy to configure backup software not only protects you against hardware failure but also human error, allowing you to recover old versions of your documents should the need arise.

The table below shows the components we chose, along with an estimate of their price.

Item Quantity Price

Western Digital MyBook 500GB External Hard Drive Hi Speed USB

1 £54.99/$80/E62

Altaro Oops Backup

1 £29.00/$37.00/E29.00

TOTAL:- £83.99/$117/E91

Setting up

Western Digital Mybook

Western Digital Mybook external USB hard drive

Configuring the hardware is really just a case of plugging in the USB cable, connecting a power cord to the drive and turning it all on. The vast majority of external USB drives come pre-formatted so there is no need to format them yourself. USB is a fully “hot swap” technology which means that you can remove and insert the USB connector while your computer is turned on. Make sure to use the “safely remove hardware” icon in the notification area before you remove your hard drive to ensure all your data is saved correctly.

Configuring Oops backup is also really easy, click here to view our Oops backup tutorials. Once configured, Oops backup will make a backup of your files every hour or as soon as you connect your backup drive.

Studying our solution in a real world example

Although our student in this example is fictitious, this is a good example of how the backup plan outlined above might work in the real world.

Laura just started a course in English at university after finishing at high school. After getting accepted on the course, she purchased a tablet PC for note taking and work at university, much to the envy of her friends. Using the backup strategy outlined here, Laura connects her PC to her external drive every day after university. As soon as she connects it Oops backup will backup all the work she did on campus today and any work she does in the evening.

Luckily the university allows its students to use their network and also provides them with some network storage space for free. Any documents that Laura works on while she’s out on campus she can backup to her university’s network area. Access on campus is fast, but access at her flat is a little slow, but it doesn’t matter since her work is backed up onto her external hard drive. If there was no network storage at the university, Laura could still get two gigabytes of internet storage with Dropbox, or failing that use a USB stick/pen drive for temporary storage while on campus.

Drawbacks of this approach

The biggest problem with this backup strategy is the lack of any off-site backup capability. Apart from using the university network for storing work (where available) this backup strategy leaves you vulnerable to theft or fire. Theft in particular is a big problem in student accommodation on some campuses. Don’t automatically assume that your tutors will give you an extension in the event of your computer and backups being stolen. To mitigate the danger, you could store another backup copy at a friends house, or keep your most recent copy of your assignment on a USB stick/pen drive. There are also several online backup services. Dropbox, as mentioned above, is an excellent example. However, for students who need to store more than a couple of gigabytes, Dropbox and other online backup services can be expensive and incur monthly fees.

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