At some time in their life, everyone loses data. Your computer’s hard drive may fail tomorrow, ransomware could encrypt your information, or a software glitch could wipe your vital documents. If you don’t back up your computer on a regular basis, you risk losing those files for good.
Backups, on the other hand, do not have to be difficult or perplexing. You’ve certainly heard of a plethora of various backup options, but which one is best for you? And what files truly need to be backed up?
It’s All About Your Personal Information
Let’s begin with the obvious: what do you require back up for? First and foremost, you must make a backup of your personal files. If your hard disk crashes, you can always reinstall your operating system and redownload your apps, but your personal data is irreplaceable.
Personal papers, images, home movies, and other material stored on your computer should be backed up on a regular basis. Those are irreplaceable. If you’ve spent hours meticulously ripping audio CDs or movie DVDs, you should back those data up as well so you don’t have to redo all of that effort.
Backing up your operating system, apps, and other settings is also possible. You are not required to back them up, but it might make your life simpler if your entire hard drive crashes. If you prefer to mess about with system files, alter the registry, and constantly upgrade your hardware, having a comprehensive system backup may save you time when anything goes wrong.
The Various Methods for Backing Up Your Files
There are several methods for backing up your data, ranging from utilizing an external drive to storing those files on a distant server over the Internet. Here are the advantages and disadvantages of each:
- Back-Up to an External Drive: If you have an external USB hard drive, you can simply use your computer’s built-in backup tools to back up to that drive. Use File History in Windows 10 and Windows 8. Use Windows Backup in Windows 7. Use Time Machine on Macs. Connect the drive to the computer and use the backup program on occasion, or keep it plugged in anytime you’re at home and it will back up automatically. Pros: Backing up is inexpensive and quick. Cons: If your house is stolen or burned down, your backup may be lost along with your computer, which is really unfortunate.
- Back-Up to the Internet: If you want to be sure your files are safe, you may use a service like Backblaze to back them up to the internet. Backblaze is the well-known online backup service we like and recommend now that CrashPlan no longer services home customers (though you could pay for a CrashPlan small business membership instead). There are additional rivals like Carbonite—we used to include MozyHome, but it is now a part of Carbonite. These apps operate in the background on your PC or Mac for a reasonable monthly price (about $5 per month), automatically backing up your data to the service’s online storage. You can restore those files if you ever lose them and need them again. Pros: Online backup safeguards your data against any sort of data loss, including hard drive failure, theft, natural catastrophes, and everything in between. Cons: These services are generally expensive (for more information, see the next section), and the first backup might take considerably longer than it would on an external drive–especially if you have a large number of data.
- Use a Cloud Storage Service: Backup purists would argue that this isn’t really a backup option, but it serves a comparable enough function for most individuals. Rather than saving your data on your computer’s hard drive, you may save them on a cloud storage service such as Dropbox, Google Drive, Microsoft OneDrive, or another comparable service. They will then automatically sync with your internet account and other PCs. If your hard disk fails, you will still have backups of your information stored online and on other computers. Pros: This approach is simple, quick, and in many cases free, and because it is online, it protects you from all forms of data loss. Cons: Because most cloud services only provide a few gigabytes of free storage, this is only useful if you have a modest quantity of data to back up or are ready to pay for additional storage. This approach might be either simpler or more involved than a straight-up backup tool, depending on the files you wish to back up.
While online backup programs such as Backblaze and cloud storage services such as Dropbox are also available, they operate in fundamentally different ways. Dropbox is intended to sync your files across PCs, whereas Backblaze and related services are intended to backup enormous volumes of data. Backblaze can save numerous copies of different versions of your files, allowing you to recover the file precisely as it was at various periods in its history. And, unlike Dropbox, which is free for tiny amounts of space, Backblaze’s low fee is for as large a backup as you desire. Depending on how much data you have, one may be less expensive than the other.
Backblaze and Carbonite do have one major drawback that you should be aware of. When you delete a file from your computer, it is removed from your online backups after 30 days. After 30 days, you can’t go back and restore a deleted file or an earlier version of a file. So, if you wish to recover those data, be cautious when removing them.
Having Just One Backup Isn’t Enough: Use Several Methods
So, which one should you go with? You should ideally employ at least two of them. Why? Because you require both local and offshore backups.
Backups are kept at the same physical place as you are referred to as “onsite.” So, an onsite backup is when you back up to an external hard drive and keep it at home with your home PC.
Offsite backups are kept in a separate place. So, backing up to an internet server, such as Backblaze or Dropbox, is considered an offshore backup.
Onsite backups are quicker and easier to set up, and they should be your first line of protection against data loss. If you accidentally delete files, you may rapidly recover them by using an external device. However, you should not rely solely on local backups. If your house burns down or all of its hardware is taken, you will lose all of your files.
Offsite backups don’t have to be stored on an Internet server, and they don’t have to be paid for on a monthly basis. Back up your files on a hard drive and keep it at your office, a friend’s residence, or a bank vault, for example. Although it might be more cumbersome, that is technically an offsite backup.
Similarly, you might keep your data in Dropbox, Google Device, or OneDrive, and backup it to an external drive on a regular basis. You may also use Backblaze to back up online and Windows File History to backup locally. There are several ways to use these services in combination, and it is entirely up to you how you do it. Just make sure you have a robust backup system in place, including both onsite and offshore backups, so you have a large safety net in case you ever lose your information.
Make It Automated
All of this may appear hard, but the more you automate your backup system, the more regularly you’ll be able to backup and the more likely you’ll continue with it. That is why, rather than moving data to an external disk by hand, you should use an automated program. You only need to set it up once and then forget about it.
That’s one of the reasons we favor online storage services like Backblaze. If it’s backing up to the internet, it may do so automatically every day. If you have to connect an external drive, you have to exert more effort, which means you’ll back up less frequently and may finally quit. Keeping everything on autopilot is certainly worth the cost.
If you don’t want to pay and want to rely on local backups, use a file-syncing service like Dropbox, Google Drive, or Microsoft OneDrive to synchronize your crucial files online. That way, if you ever lose your local backup, you’ll have an online backup to fall back on.
Finally, you should consider where your files are and have several copies on hand at all times. Ideally, those copies should be kept in more than one area. You should be miles ahead of most people if you’re truly thinking about what you’ll do if your computer dies.