Ever lost some or all of your data because you did not back up your hard drive? If so, you will know first-hand how disastrous it can be. Your hard drive can fail without warning, ransomware can lock you out at any instant or a software bug or a mistake on your part can delete important files.
Accordingly, you need to have a backup strategy in place – today. What do you need to back up and what is the best method for you?
Basically, you need to back up your personal data – the stuff like documents, photos and videos that you have created yourself. Your operating system and programs can be acquired again but the family photos are irreplaceable if lost.
There are several ways to back up your data. Let’s have a look at the most common ones to determine what is right for you.
Use an external drive to Back Up
Portable hard drives are really cheap these days – you can get a terabyte or more of storage for under $100. Simply plug it into a USB port and use your computer’s built in back up utilities. On Windows 10 and 8, use File History. On Windows 7, use Windows Backup. On Macs, use Time Machine. Connect the external drive to the USB periodically (it’s best to have a routine – say daily or weekly) and use the backup tool. Alternatively, leave the drive plugged in and it will back up automatically whenever you make changes to your personal files.
While simple and cheap, using an external drive for backups has two weaknesses. Firstly. if you lose your data on your computer, all those latest changes to your files will be lost if you haven’t yet backed them up. Secondly if your home is robbed or it burns down (it happens somewhere daily) you may lose your computer and your backup unless you routinely store the backup in another location. You could make a habit of having two backups. Leave one in a different location (at work for instance) and swap them often
Back Up Over The Internet
A great way to keep your files safe is to use a service such as Carbonite or Backblaze. These programs charge a monthly fee of around $5 and run continuously in the background on either PC or Mac automatically backing up your files on a remote server making them easy to recover should disaster befall your local storage. If you want to store your data on these services, the first time you initiate it may take a long time to transfer and you will burn through your data allocation (if it’s limited) so check before you click!
Utilise a Cloud Storage Service
Microsoft OneDrive, DropBox and Google Drive are cloud storage services that automatically synch to your online account and to your other PC’s so the work you do on one is immediately available on all others. Should you lose the data on one machine, copies are stored in the cloud as well as on all the other machines. It’s fast and easy however these services only offer a few gigabytes for free. For greater storage there is a monthly fee but if you are running Office 365 you can get up to 1Terabyte of OneDrive included (depending on the version of 365 you are running).
So what’s the difference between programs such as Backblaze and cloud storage services like Google Drive?
They are both online backups but work quite differently.
Backblaze, Carbonite and similar services are designed to backup large amounts of data and they keep multiple copies of your files – basically it stores a new file without deleting the old each time. This effectively keeps a history of changes you have made on any file and you can at any time; return to an older version. Cloud storage like OneDrive and Dropbox does not do this. They simply mirror what is currently on your computer so historical changes are lost. Backblaze’s price is for as much storage as you want. Depending how much data you have will determine which service is the cheaper for you.
One thing you should remain very aware of when using Backblaze or Carbonite (or similar). Although they keep a history of any changes you have made to a file, when you delete the latest version that is on your computer it and all the historical copies will be deleted after 30 days. Be really careful when deleting a file. Are you sure you will never need it again?
Use Multiple Methods
Really to properly protect your data you should employ both onsite and offsite methods.
On site is typically an external hard drive that you keep at home (or with the computer). Quick, easy, cheap and not entirely secure from loss. It should only be considered a first line of defence.
Offsite means your data is stored at a different location. It may be a hard drive that is physically moved to and from your computer’s location but it is more commonly a service such as Backblaze or OneDrive.
Online services are easily automated so they run in the background and other than a periodical check to see if they are working properly, it’s a set and forget proposition.
So – decide which two methods are best for you – and do it today!
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