Most of us don’t think about backing up our data until that inevitable day when our computer crashes or we leave our laptop on the train. Then we despairingly say “If only I’d backed up.” So rather than losing all your hard work, digital photographs, emails, etc., let’s take a look at some simple methods to protect your data – before it’s too late.
The most critical point to remember is this: Always have 3 different copies of everything. What does this mean? Well, for starters, backing up to a separate folder that is still housed on the same computer, is not backing up. If your computer crashes, you will lose all the data, including the back-up folder. Therefore, it is important to ensure that all your data is saved in various formats in separate locations.
USB Flash Drives
USB flash drives are small, portable and convenient. They are ideal for quickly copying smaller files and transferring onto another device. Their storage space is typically less than 8GB so they would not be used for backing up your entire database. But they are the fastest way to copy data. Just be warned that they can rapidly become unstable if they are not ejected correctly and also if they are inserted into multiple computers on a regular basis. So always ensure that your master copy of the document is housed somewhere more secure.
CDs and DVDs
CDs and DVDs are fast becoming a less favourable option due to their limited storage capacity. CDs can only hold up to 750MB, while a DVD can store up to 4.7GB (some larger formats do exist but they are quite rare). That being said, CDs and DVDs are still a lot more stable than USBs and external hard drives. The data is easily accessible when needed. Many people still prefer this format, especially for photographs as they can be labelled and filed in chronological order and easily viewed on a DVD player.
External Hard Drives
The storage space on external hard drives is much larger, and is still increasing in newer versions. The average external hard drive can now hold between 500GB and 10TB of data! They are ideal for backing up your computer’s entire hard disk. Many external drives come equipped with software, which can help you manage and schedule backups as per your preference and convenience. If you are using these as your primary backup device, ensure that you have two hard drives. While one is attached to your computer, running automatic backups, the other copy should typically be stored at an off-site location as an extra safety precaution.
Never even heard of it? That’s ok. All it basically means is that your data is stored in a virtual, internet-based platform. It is fast becoming the most popular trend in backup solutions. There are many cloud storage sites available on the web, which usually offer a few gigabytes of cloud storage absolutely free. The big caution here is to investigate the sites thoroughly to ensure that they have sufficient safety management systems and to choose the solution that best fits your needs. Also, remember that your data is only as secure as your passwords.
We’ve chosen three of the most popular ones to get you started:
- Carbonite is one of the most popular online backup services. Carbonite can automatically back up documents, music, email, and other files. It supports most operating systems and allows easy access to restoring your files when needed. Your off-site files are encrypted for additional security, and all of their plans include unlimited storage capacity. Carbonite also offers a courier recovery service that delivers your backups on a hard drive to you if needed.
- Backblaze is ideal for non-technical people. It’s built for people who want to get their data backed up, without the hassle of all the technical jargon and error codes. Backblaze typically backs up everything on your system without a pre-selection process. The main aim is to be fast, easy, and hands-off, and hassle free.
- CrashPlan is a backup tool for Windows and Mac. CrashPlan allows you the flexibility to back up any folders that you select. These files can then be stored on an external hard drive, another computer on the same network, or online at CrashPlan’s servers. The backup utility is set-it-and-forget-it, and it runs quietly in the background at your preferred intervals.
So the main message to remember is: Always make 3 separate backups of your data and keep these backups in different locations. Don’t rely solely on physical hard copies, or only on cloud options. Get into the habit of running regular backups or set them as automatic so that you can relax and have peace of mind that all your important items are safely stored away.
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