Tech Tip #2: Backup Strategies

Think of what you have on your computer. Priceless baby pictures or videos, important documents and urgent emails, your amazing music collection. But think about it – every hard drive is bound to fail sometime. What would you do if your computer crashed tomorrow?  Would you have a way to get to your data? Or would it be gone forever?

You can rest easy tonight if you just follow these backup tips to make sure your data is secure.

While there may be other strategies out there, the tried-and-true 3-2-1 Backup strategy is the best. Basically, you want three copies of your data, they need to be stored on two different types of media and one copy needs to be off-site. That may seem complicated, but it’s actually really simple. With 3-2-1 backup, you can never go wrong. (Well, almost never.)

  • 3 copies of your data. A single copy of your data is not a backup at all – you’re running a big risk without a second copy. Another copy is nice to have, but it is not enough. Most people stop at two copies, but to get real peace of mind, you should have three copies.
  • 2 different types of media. This is essential to a good backup. Your data needs to be stored on two different types of media – say, your primary hard drive and a DVD, or your primary hard drive and your phone.
  • 1 off-site backup. This is the most important part to the 3-2-1 strategy. You could have a house fire or a flood, or burglars could come and steal your laptop as well as your backup. What then? You need to have what’s called an off-site backup, that is, a copy of your data needs to be far away from your original file. You could make CDs and then mail them to your grandma, for example, or you could backup to the internet (one of the best ways to back up).

There are two types of backups: local and remote. Local backups are the easiest to manage and restore from, but they are vulnerable to  physical damage via earthquakes and tornadoes and such. Remote backups are safer (especially when they’re on the cloud), but they are harder to get to and often times they are out of date. That’s why it is critical that you get a backup program to do it for you and that you schedule automatic updates, so that you won’t have to remember and that you can know that your backup is up to date.

Some local backup solutions that I recommend are FBackup and EaseUS Todo Backup. You could also use Windows Backup which comes with all modern versions of Windows, or Time Machine for the Mac.

A new and simpler backup solution is the cloud. Simply upload all your files to the internet, and now you really know that they are secure. Companies like Carbonite and Mozy offer stellar backup solutions which can backup your files to the cloud.

My Backup Plan

  • File History – I have a complex and overlapping backup system, but now I know that I have at least 4 copies of my files. As you know, I am running the Windows 8 Release Preview, which comes with a great built-in backup system called File History. It is ten times better than regular backup – it backs up your files on a regular basis (say, three hours), but unlike regular backup, it scans your files for changes and only backs up those which have been modified since the previous backup. At a later date, if you wanted to go back to a previous version of a Word document, for example, you could just click on the File History button and it shows you all of the previous backups of the document (and therefore, all previous revisions).
  • SkyDrive – Yes, I know, I’m a Microsoftie. But still, I think Microsoft SkyDrive is a great cloud storage service. Download the SkyDrive app for Windows, and it adds a virtual folder to your desktop which you can add files to. You can even set that folder as the default save location for your Documents or Pictures library. The files in this folder will then be synced to the cloud, and can then be accessed anywhere by just going to and signing in with your Microsoft Account. You can even download the SkyDrive app on another PC and have your files automatically sync between all your PCs plus the cloud. How cool is that? SkyDrive beats all competitors with 7 gigabytes of free storage, plus cheap upgrades for 20GB,
  • Google Play – Often neglected is backup of your music. You’ve probably purchased a lot of songs or ripped countless numbers of CDs to your computer, or spent hours upon hours organizing your iTunes library. So your music collection is something you really don’t want to lose. Google Play is Google’s online Music/Video/Apps service which is actually really nice. It has an online player and lets you upload up to 20,000 songs for free! You can choose to upload your generic music library or your iTunes library, which keeps your album art and preferences. Add to that the capability to download your music collection, and it makes a really awesome cloud music service as well as backup.
  • Carbonite – My family has been using Carbonite for years now, and I think it is one of the very best in online backup products out there. It is a paid product, but they have really low rates – $60 a year, which translates into only $5 a month! It is my all-in-one backup solution, which backs up all of my files in my internal drives with no limit. I have all my documents, pictures, music, videos, as well as a few other things stored on Carbonite. It constantly is backing up, and so I never have to remember to back up my files. I really recommend Carbonite.

So, I hope I didn’t overload you with information. In recap:

  • Keep at least three copies of your data: your original, one on an external drive, and one offsite or on the cloud.
  • Make a scheduled backup, and keep data redundancy.
  • Try overlapping backup plans.
  • Backup to the cloud.

Thanks for reading! I hope you follow this advice and have a nice day!

P. S. The word "backup" was used 42 times in this article. :P

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