Of all the important computer tasks that people regularly ignore, backing up their data and important files must be at the top of the list. At my computer repair shop in Louisville, KY at least once a week I deal with a customer in a panic because their computer or laptop won’t start and it is the only device that contains all their data. With computers, things can go very wrong, quickly. Hard drive failure is a very common occurrence and now there is computer virus going around that destroys data.
Backing up your computer and keeping your files safe should be a regular part of your computer maintenance routine. The frequency will depend on the importance of your files – the value you place on them. It’s advisable to backup immediately after uploading anything you consider important. A common sense test would be to ask yourself how you would feel and how would it affect you if the file was gone. For most users, once a week, bi monthly, monthly or even quarterly is a reasonable schedule. Again, depends on the value you place on the newly created files.
Perhaps, part of the problem lies with the fact that people aren’t sure how to start or what tools and software to use. If I have any advice along these lines it is one thing: keep it simple. I recommend keeping your data on two devices. Your machine and one other device. If it’s at your home or facility or at someone else’s (meaning the cloud – which simply means your data is transferred to someone else’s facility via the internet not into outer space) makes little difference really unless you’re concerned against protecting against a flood or fire. In which case you do need a copy at another facility – but you still don’t have to use the cloud. You can give a copy to friend, or put a copy in your bank box for example. No need to send it via the cloud to someone stranger’s facility.
I do not use a cloud back-up. The only solid, logical reason to do a cloud back up that I can think of is to protect against fire. Rather than losing control of my data and sending it to ”who knows where” I simply have a third copy of my data on a flash drive in the bank box. This is simple and logical to me and makes me feel happy.
I also keep the backup itself simple and logical (by my way of thinking, anyway). I transfer (copy and paste) five folders and my accounting file to an external hard drive about once a month. That’s it! The folders are: My Documents, Business Documents, My Pictures, My Videos, and Favorites. I use QuickBooks accounting software for my businesses and each business has one file that I save to the external.
My backup method is very simple as I think it should be. I am in control of my data and my back-up and quite frankly I don’t think this needs to be automated process. Automated back-ups can fail and drain system resources I’d rather use for actual creation and production. But as my grandmother, who lived to be 100 always said “to each their own.” Here are some more back-up options for you to consider.
1. External Hard Drive: The most common method for backing up computers at home is the use of an external hard drive. These devices come with software to make backups automated but you don’t have to use it. You do have to option of using the backup software, or just dragging and dropping your data or if you prefer – cut and paste. This is a very inexpensive option a 500GB external Hard Drive is about $59 bucks now.
2. USB Flash Drive: You’re not likely to be able to fit all the contents of your hard drive on a flash drive but this isn’t the way you should be doing a back-up anyway, in my option. The capacity of these little drives is impressive. You can get a 64 GB or 128 GB flash drive which is enough to back up all of my important, irreplaceable data. It’s a great way to go, frankly.
3. Online Storage: Dropbox is one such option. This software also allows file sharing with other people. The first 2 GB of space is free. There are other comparable solutions — Cabronite and others. I don’t use cloud back-up so I can’t give you many options here but Google it and I’m sure you’ll get a Google-zillion results. Search criteria: “best online back-up” –read some third party reviews and articles about your options.
4. Windows Backup and Restore: While previous versions of Windows had backup utilities that left a lot to be desired, the back and restore utilities in Windows 7 and 8 are actually OK but this my least favorite way to back up data. I would pass on it.
5. NAS – Network Attached Storage: NAS is a good option sometimes for business users and it wouldn’t be entirely incorrect to think of this as an external hard drive for a network of computers. Unless you enjoy complicating your life more than it already is I would stay away from this for home use.