Backing up your computer is perhaps one of the most crucial and necessary tasks every home and business needs to undertake. Yet it is also one of the most overlooked and neglected tasks.
Despite how careful we may be, it’s inevitable at some stage that something will go wrong and we could lose all of our valuable files and data. And if we’re not keeping regular backups of those files and data, they could be gone forever.
In 2002, I conducted a backup of my computer (the entire 32GB). Upon completion, 18 Compact Discs sat proudly in their very own CD folder, with the word BACKUP emblazoned on the cover. From memory, this process took a few days, during which time the machine couldn’t be used for anything else.
Thankfully, in 2017 backing up your computer is nowhere near as painful as it used to be.
Although Windows does offer some backup and recovery tools, there are a number of solutions available which may be more desirable.
We’re going to take a look at:
- Why you need to backup your computer
- What files do you need to backup?
- Backup methods
- Automation and Diversification
Why you need to backup your computer
As mentioned, when something inevitably goes wrong, the consequences could be devastating. You could lose your data forever and attempts at recovery may become quite expensive, even if you never get to see your beloved files again. By backing up regularly we are drastically reducing the risk of data loss.
Just a few of the ways you could incur data loss include (but are not limited to):
- Hardware failure
- Power Surges
- Virus, Malware or Ransomware infection
- Natural Disaster
- Human Error
What files do you need to backup?
At the very least, all personal and sensitive files should be backed up. For home users, this includes all of those CD’s, movies, photos and memes you spent so long creating and storing. For business owners, this most likely includes every single file on your computer. Remember, once they are gone, they can not be replaced.
Your Operating System, Database and Registry can also be backed up. While this is not as crucial as the actual data stored on your computer, recovery will be smoother and faster with a complete system backup. If you’re a business owner who cannot afford any downtime at all, or a personal user with a heavily customised OS, I’d definitely consider this approach.
There are numerous methods available to back up your computer. These are generally categorised as either physical (on-site), or virtual (cloud) storage.
Physical or on-site storage may include:
- Compact Disc
- External Hard-drive
- Cloned machine
Virtual or cloud storage may include:
- Private Server
- Virtual Private Server (VPS)
- Online Backup Services (highly recommended)
- Cloud Storage Services such as Dropbox, Google Drive, Google Cloud, Amazon S3 etc.
*Please note that cloud storage services (Dropbox, Drive etc.) are not regarded as backup services. They are storage services, some of which have synchronisation features. While many do offer free storage, the capacity is very small and their larger storage options become very expensive very quickly.
Automation and Diversification
Automated backups are the easiest way to keep a constant backup of your computer. This will keep your sanity in check, while minimising downtime if something were to go wrong.
There are quite a few automated Online Backup Services to choose from, such as Crashplan, Carbonite, Backblaze etc. These are available for around $5 per month (USD), to keep your computer files backed up continuously.
It’s simply a matter of opening an account, backing up your system and carrying on about your business as usual.
Complete system backups including OS, Registry and Database are also on offer, however these cost a little more (starting at less than $10/month USD). This also includes External Hard Drive backups.
If the costs of automated backups are off-putting, consider how expensive the alternative will be!
Make sure you carry out thorough research and choose the plan best suited for your particular needs. Most services offer a free trial, so you can take them for a test drive before committing.
The first initial backup will take a considerable amount of time, depending on your internet connection. During this process you will not be able to power off your computer. However, you can continue to work without interruption. (Streaming services such as YouTube etc. may be impacted.)
Diversification is also an important consideration. Having both a physical and virtual copy of your backup is considered best practice. By following this approach, we can carry on about our business confidently, knowing that in a worst case scenario, the show still goes on.
Have you ever lost all of your data? What’s your preferred backup method?
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