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March 31st is World Backup Day, but it isn’t just another arbitrary holiday… World Backup Day is strategically celebrated the day before April 1st – aka April Fool’s Day. With phishing emails full of scams and viruses constantly going around, it’s a good idea to be extra vigilant on a holiday which glorifies trickery.
After all, who knows if an innocent prank will lead to major data loss and unsaved documents, or if a link you accidentally click on will download ransomware straight onto your computer? We should all be ensuring our data is backed up on World Backup Day in case someone out there tries fool us on April 1st!
Let’s review some backup best practices and helpful tips to make sure your own backup is in place, secure, and up to date.
(What would you do if you lost everything? video from Sam Mularczyk)
Why You Need to BackupLike mentioned above you could lose your data anytime anywhere, so you need to take care of it. You wouldn’t toss your laptop off the edge of your bed at night, so why would you carelessly minimize that spreadsheet you’ve been working on for hours without saving it? A computer or smart phone is replaceable, you personal data is not.
Luckily, we live in a time where many programs automatically save our documents even if we click out of them or our computer shuts down without warning. But it’s easy to remember a time when this wasn’t the reality and a closed window was lost forever. But even with these amazing auto-save features available, it’s better to be safe than sorry; save, save, save!
It may not be an accident that causes loss of data. Cyber attacks and viruses can also lead to digital loss or, even worse, a completely wiped hard drive. In these cases you’d still have your hardware at least, but if your computer or smart phone is stolen then you’ve lost all of your files on top of your hardware. Imagine all your photos, videos, music, and work gone in an instant!
How to Backup Your Files
Manual Backup to CD, DVD, or USBFor a quick fix, you can manually copy your files onto a CD, DVD, or USB thumb drive. However, these devices have very limited storage room, are hard to store securely, are prone to failure, and easy to lose or break. If you scratch a CD or DVD, the data on it might be compromised.
The upside is that it’s easy and quick to move data on and off of thumb drives. With DVDs and CDs, the data has to be burned onto the media and is permanent. These devices are best utilized if you’re sharing files, music, or videos with others and are not recommended as a foolproof backup for everything on your computer.
Automatic Backup to External Hard DriveAn external hard drive works like your computer’s internal hard drive except – you guessed it – it’s external. Most of these hard drives will connect to your computer via USB cable or FireWire. Some can also be accessed with WiFi. Since hard drives come in larger sizes than other media, they’re perfect for backing up your entire device. It’s much easier to carry and store one external hard drive than 50 CDs!
Once your drive is plugged into your computer, set your machine to back up to it so that it will have copies of your files and system settings for safekeeping. Every few hours (depending on your settings) the hard drive will automatically check your files for changes and backup again
However, if you have a laptop that is connected to an external backup drive by USB or FireWire, your laptop is now essentially a desktop. Only external hard drives that can backup with WiFi will allow for true mobility, but these are often more expensive devices.
If you have your data saved externally then losing it to theft is no longer a threat. There’s only a very slim chance that your laptop could be stolen at the airport at the same time your external hard drive was being snatched out of your house. And if your computer is wiped clean during a cyber attack, your external hard drive will have your back! (The exception is ransomware, which will likely encrypt any drives attached to your computer at the time of the attack.)
Bootable Clone BackupIf your computer fails, a bootable backup comes in handy. Unlike an external hard drive which can be set up for automatic backups, you must manually create the “clone” of your files. This means that if you haven’t updated your clone in a while and your computer crashes, anything that hasn’t been copied to the bootable backup since your last update is gone.
This is the most useful option for times when your computer’s hard drive fails. If this were to happen, instead of dealing with the hassle of taking your computer into a repair shop, you would have your bootable backup ready to go. It’s like having a spare tire in the back of your car – but even a spare tire won’t help if you haven’t been checking it for air and it’s deflated!
So, if you do choose to use a bootable backup, make a habit to update it regularly and after any important changes to your files.
Cloud BackupThe best way to have full accessibility to a backup of your files or system is to have it automatically saved and synced in the cloud. In this situation, a third party server (i.e., the cloud) will keep track of all your data so that if something happens, everything will be easy to restore.
There are plenty of cloud storage programs out there to chose from, each offering different storage space, sharing abilities, and prices. Considering the convenience of cloud storage, the price is the main downside. Usually these online programs are subscriptions you pay per month or year, but there are a variety of programs with different payment plans to fit your needs.
If your computer is lost or stolen or in need of a replacement, cloud storage services provide a quick and easy way to get all your old files onto a new machine. Your information is also easier to share with your friends and your other devices. The accessibility you gain to all your information is outstanding; all that is required is that you have an internet connection to access your files! They’re easy to manage and search. And on top of all of this? Encryption is often built-in by the third party storing your information, making your backup even more secure.
How Often Should You Backup?If you have set up automatic backups to either an external hard drive or cloud backup system, then there’s no need to worry about when you’ll need to backup your files. If you do choose to use a bootable clone backup, then you should be backing up your data everyday or at least any time you make significant changes that you’d like to keep. Even if you are using an external hard drive or cloud backup, you should be checking regularly to make sure they are continuing to function properly.
The truth is that you can never backup your files too many times! For maximum redundancy and security, we suggest that at least the combination of an automated backup to both an external hard drive and cloud backup service be used. This will make it more likely for lost data to be recovered in any situation, no matter what comes your way.
So happy World Backup Day! If you’re one of the many people who currently don’t have your files backed up, then take these tips to heart. If you know someone who isn’t taking proper precautions to keep their data safe, share this with them.
Every year more and more of us are backing up our information as our digital world continues to race into the future. Don’t be left down in the dust; get your data (preferably) up in the cloud!