If you currently do not have a backup plan in place for your data you should stop what you are doing and do something right now!
As a technical support person the thing I dread the most is telling someone that all of their data has been lost. Data recovery can be very expensive or in the case of Crypto Locker, impossible.
Making a backup doesn’t have to be complicated. There are countless ways to approach this and countless options, which is what often immobilizes people. They find all the options and the choices overwhelming. Let’s see if we can break this down into simple chunks.
1. Making a backup, at it’s most basic, is merely making a second (even third) copy of your data that is stored somewhere other than on your hard drive. If you do not have at least two copies of a file, you do not have a back up!
2. Where do you make the copies? This will depend on how much data you have. Some back ups will fit on a single CD or a single DVD. If you have more than 4GB of data, burning to DVD is not going to be a simple solution. To determine the amount of space you need to back up your data you will need to check the folder size of things like My Documents, My Pictures, My Videos folders, as well as any other folders you may be using.
To view the folder size: Right Click on the folder and choose PROPERTIES.
Do this for all folders and tally up the sizes to determine the combined space you need. This handy converter can help you get to Gigabyte or Terabyte values:
Data Size Converter
3. Where to make copies of your data:
- External USB harddrive
- Secondary internal harddrive
- Cloud storage
4. How do you make the copies of your data? You can do this manually by copy and pasting your folders to your chosen destination. You can use the built in backup tool included in Windows 7. You can install software on your computer that will keep your back up up to date automatically after a little bit of set up. You can sign up for a cloud storage service and allow it to automatically back up your data after a little bit of set up.
5. Cloud storage just means saving your files out on the internet on someone else’s server. There are many companies that offer this type of service. Some are paid and some are free with a cap on the amount of data you want to store. Here are just a few options:
- SOS Online Backup
- Acronis True Image Online
- Open Drive
- Sugar Sync
- Just Cloud
- Microsoft One Drive *Free with any Microsoft/Hotmail/Live/Outlook account
- Google Drive
- Amazon Cloud Drive
*Free 15G with any Google account
How does cloud storage work? Once you’ve selected a service and have logged in to the website you will see an option to download the service to your computer. Download and install the software on your computer. Once you have configured the software to back up your important folders it will run in the background and begin making copies of your files to the cloud. Depending on how much data you are backing up this may take a few minutes or a few days. Just allow it to run until it fully copies all of your data. Going forward when you add, delete or change a file, the software will replicate those changes on your back up copy as well. Many will allow you to disable the option to replicate deletions. That will protect your data if you accidentally delete something from your computer. The really big upside to backing up all of your important data to the cloud is that transferring your data to a new computer is a breeze. On your new computer you will download and install the same software and log in to access your data and copy it to the hard drive of your new computer.
Cloud back up also meets another important piece of a good back up strategy, off site back up. If you back up your data religiously and store the backups in your desk you are still at risk. Fire, flood, tornado, hurricane or theft will wipe out your computer AND your backups! When your data is in the cloud it is in a different physical location.
6. Using an external USB hard drive or secondary internal hard drive is not much different than using CD/DVD or cloud backup. Again you can manually copy your files to the external or internal hard drive or you can install software to handle this for you. This also makes it fairly simple to get your data on to a new computer. However, you are missing the offsite piece of the puzzle. You can take your external hard drive to another location for storage and bring it home periodically to update the back up but that quickly becomes a cumbersome chore for most people. This would not work for a secondary internal hard drive. You could buy two external hard drives and swap them out but again that becomes a chore.
How much effort you are willing to put into your backup plan will be determined by how important your data is to you.
My backup plan uses multiple options. I have an external USB hard drive attached to my computer and I use Allway Sync to keep my data copied to that drive. Older archived data that I don’t really need but hate to delete I have copied to a thumbdrive and placed it in a fireproof safe in my house. The hard drive from my old computer is also in that safe. In addition to that I use Google Drive to back up my data to the cloud. My family tree is also stored on Ancestry.com.
Pick the best solution for you and get started today before it’s too late!