You are responsible for backing up your files on your PC. If you don't then you will loose data. Hard disks will fail. Removeable disks can fail or be damaged. Apply good backup practices! Backup regularly.1. What's best?
2. How do I do that?
Depends on how you want to archive your files.
The most ideal method is for your computer to be on the forest domain and to store your documents (but not terabytes of research data) on the U: drive. This is a shared mass storage unit in Tampa which is backup up regularly. This drive is for files you'd normally store in your My Documents folder.
For quick backups, a external disk (USB Drive) or flash drive is handy. But don't let this be your only copy of your data. Leave it also on your computer's hard disk or use a CD/DVD as a backup copy. Even external hard drives fail. The warrentee can be a indicator of how long a drive might last, but some will fail prematurely - you never know! Flash drives will die without warning. They are also limited to about 5000 writes on each sector.
For Archival purposes - use CD's or DVD's. Don't skimp on price. Cheap disks may not write properly and can fail earlier. Archival quality disks are best, but expensive and hard to find. If it's real important make more than 1 copy & over long periods of time, make additional copies every 5-10 years in case a disk fails from old age or improper care.
Don't use floppies or zip disks for archiving files or as your only copy. Both of these don't last long. You might also find if your hard disk fails, that you can't read your 2 year old floppies.
Tape backups can store lots of data, but some tapes last longer than others. For long term storage use tapes like LTO or DLT tapes. Tapes may be more expensive than a external disk or DVD's.
Safe Backup Practices
Don't loose your data cause of unsafe backup practices.
If you use a hard disk for backup (ie a USB drive) - don't let this be your sole source of backups, either keep a copy on your computer hard disk or make a CD/DVD copy. All hard disks will fail sooner or later. Most within 3-5 years - check the warrentee as a guideline, but some may fail sooner.
CD's & DVD's
Read the proper care guide
Long version: http://www.itl.nist.gov/div895/carefordisc/ )
- If it's real important make more than one copy and verify the disk was written properly.
- Inexpensive disk's may not write properly. Recommend you buy better disks. Verify that they were written
- Don't use solvent based pens (Sharpies), ball point pens or pencils. Use pens especially made for CD's. Solvents can cause the reflective layers on CD's to de-laminate. Special pens are alcohol based.
- Don't use adhesive labels on the disks. These can cause the reflective layer on CD's to come off, ruining the disk. If you use a label, don't try to remove it or reposition it. Over time a label may partially come off either damaging the drive or the disk when you try to remove it the rest of the way.
- If you drop a DVD, it will split in half and you won't be able to read it.
- Keep the disks out of the sun & away from heat. UV light breaks down the dye layer which records your data.
- Most CD/DVD's sold today have a dye layer which only lasts about 10 years. If you want something which will last, look for "archive quality" disks.
- Flash drives fail complely and without warning, unlike most hard drives which typically, but not always, go downhill at a slower pace giving you time to recover some data if not all your data.