Backing up your computer is one of the most important things that you can do. I know this from experience as I’ve lost way too many hard drives to physical malfunction, viruses, and even theft. And many of those times I did NOT have a backup, and I lost my data. You never know when disaster will strike. I had my laptop stolen from my car in what I thought was a very safe parking lot with lots of pedestrian traffic. I lost lots of files and photos.
There are a few different ways to back up your data – you could put it on external hard drives, or upload it to the various cloud backup services that are on the market today. However, there are right ways and wrong ways to do this. I believe that a combination of external drives and cloud backup is a great way to keep your data safe and secure.
Cloud backups are all the rage right now. All you need is an internet connection and you can upload your files to a secure server where you can easily access them wherever you have an internet connection. You can even get to the files through your phone via an app. It’s a very cool way to store information, that’s for sure. However, there are some limits to cloud backup.
The first limit is how fast your internet connection is. This will control how fast you can upload data into the cloud. File sizes are so big now that people can amass very large amounts of data that could literally take weeks to completely upload into the cloud. Plus, while that data is uploading your ISP might throttle your download speed, causing your internet connection to choke.
More distant risks of cloud backup storage are hacking, or the shutdown of the company you store your data with. Rather unlikely, but something to think about.
Cloud backups are great for smaller, more reasonable amounts of data: document files, photos, music, spreadsheets, website data, settings, etc. I do not recommend cloud backups for large files such as movies, very large batches of full-resolution photos, and software downloads. For those larger files I will use an external drive.
Do you really need to have 24/7 access to that Godzilla movie you downloaded? Then save your bandwidth and put it on an external drive instead.
The positives of cloud backups are very good: instant access from any internet connection, safe from theft and physical disaster such as fire and flood. However you will have to pay a monthly fee in order to keep your account running.
Recommended Cloud Storage Companies:
External Hard Drives
External hard drives are the “classic” method of storing your data. They are very affordable now, and you can buy a good size one for under $100. Some of them, like the My Passport from Western Digital, are very small and easily portable. They are also very fast – you can put your data on them in minutes rather than the hours and hours it takes to upload to the cloud.
External drives are vulnerable to their own problems: physical failure (breakage), loss, theft. So they are not foolproof.
I recommend that people store image files of their entire computer installation on an external drive, and update it at least every week. I also recommend that people store very large files such as movies and large batches of full-resolution photos on external drives. In order to be very safe you could buy two drives and just do two backups in case one hard drive stops working for some reason.
Recommended Hard Drives:
Western Digital My Passport
My Backup Strategy
My backup strategy involves a bit of organization, but once you have it set up it should all be automated.
Sort Your Files: Separate your most important files to back up to the cloud. This includes very important photos and things that you can’t replace. Documents such as reports, tax files, and other important spreadsheets. Recipes. Saved files. Make sure you have everything.
Most cloud backup software will allow you to pick what folders and files you want to back up, and it’s automated after that. So make sure that you see how your backup software works and sort it accordingly (it can be slightly different for each software/backup company).
Put Smaller / Non-replacable Files On The Cloud: Wedding and vacation photos, documents, music, smaller video files of the family, etc. Itunes music libraries if they are small enough.
Put Large Files On External Drives: If I have movies and music I’ve downloaded they can be replaced if lost: so I put them on external drives. I’m not that worried about them.
Put Drive Image Files On External Drives: I make images of my Windows installation every once in a while in case a virus screws up my computer and I want to reinstall it. These image files include ALL my data so they are rather big. I personally put them on a dedicated external drive.
Keep in mind, what you put on the cloud and what you put on external drives will be a personal decision. Can you live with losing certain data? Most external drives will last forever, but they could possibly break or get lost/stolen.
How do you back up your data? Leave a comment below!