Backup Your Data on World Backup Day and Everyday.
Tuesday, March 31 is World Backup Day! It’s an “official” day to help remind everyone about the importance of backing up your data. Having digital copies is one of your best responses to ransomware, and also puts you in a better position in case of hardware failure, loss, or accidental deletion.
A surprising number of people don’t bother with backups, despite how vital electronic data is these days. Let’s have a look at what’s involved in protecting your digital assets, and help celebrate World Backup Day the right way.
The first thing to consider is what to back up. Some people use their computers for a few letters and keeping annual tax records. Others can have gigabytes of pictures, videos, artwork, writing, etc. It’s helpful to understand how much data you have and how important it is to you.
This reflection will help you decide what you don’t want to back up. There’s no point in backing up files you don’t want or need anymore. This might be a good time for a little “spring cleaning” on your device. Old blurry pictures on your phone? Out they go. Kids’ homework assignments from 2008? Into the recycling bin. Once you’ve identified what you want to keep and what can go, make sure you’ve got things organized in folders or filing systems on your computer. Have stuff scattered on your desktop or in folders all over the computer? Putting them into a central document folder or filing system will make them easier to locate later on.
Now that we’re organized, we can choose the best method of backup for you. There are three typical ways of backing up your data: backing up on a local device, backing up to cloud storage, or using a cloud backup storage system. Let’s explore each one:
This consists of making copies of the data from your local mobile device or computer onto a separate device like a thumb drive, an external hard drive, or – if you have lots of data – a network attached storage (NAS) device. Writing files on CDs or DVDs is largely a thing of the past – their capacities are comparatively limited, and it is becoming less and less common to even have a disk reader on new computers.
Creating a backup of your phone or tablet onto your computer, then making a full backup of the computer is a good way to capture everything you need efficiently. Before you start, just make sure that you have enough space on your computer and on your backup device to hold all of your data. Nothing’s more frustrating that running a backup for a few hours, only to get a warning message saying you’re out of space!
iPhone and iPad: The iTunes application is usually the go-to for creating backups for these mobile devices. How to back up your iPhone has all the information you need on how to create a local backup of your iOS products.
Android: Android typically recommends backing up to the cloud, so it does not come with a built-in local backup application. Depending on your requirements, you can simply copy files manually, or download a third-party application that makes backup straightforward. Lifewire has a comprehensive article outlining both approaches.
Now that you’ve captured a snapshot of your mobile devices on your PC or Mac, you’re all set to take a snapshot of your computer.
Windows 10: Creating and restoring backups is really easy in Windows using the “File History” tools in the Settings menu. Refer to Backup and Restore in Windows 10 for pictures and instructions.
Mac: Local backups on a Mac are created using the “Time Machine” utility. Refer to How to back up your Mac for instructions on backing up and restoring data on your Apple computer.
When you’re done, be sure to label the backup (date/time/device(s) backed up) in case you need to refer back to it later. Then, make sure to remove the device and store it somewhere safe. Too often people make a backup, then leave the drive sitting on top of the computer! If there’s a theft, fire or flood, both your computer and backup get wiped out together.
With simple storage space in the cloud, the descriptions in the previous section all still apply, except instead of a local hard drive, you select a remote cloud destination (e.g., Google Drive, OneDrive, Dropbox, etc.). Many of these services can store a limited quantity of data for free. If you have bigger storage requirements (e.g., lots of data or you want to keep lots of versions of your data), monthly subscription charges may apply. One of the other key considerations before selecting a cloud service is your connection to the Internet. If you have a lot of data to backup, but you have a slow connection to the Internet and/or a limited data plan, cloud backups may not be practical for you. Do your homework and set your budget before choosing a service.
Cloud Backup Solutions
While simple cloud storage just gives you raw space to put things, more robust cloud backup solutions are available that can manage your data storage for you. These solutions will handle versions, retention periods, encryption, automated backups, etc. Tom’s Guide provides current reviews of some of the top solutions for home use. The cost for these services can be higher, of course, but your assessment of how much data you have, how “technical” you are, and how important the data is to you all go into your decision-making process. And as with basic cloud storage, speed of connection and data plan restrictions must be considered as well.
Now that you’ve created your backup, there are a few final things to consider. First, have you tested the backup? Make sure to review the instructions to ensure you know how to pull data back from your local or cloud copy of your data. Try testing it: if something has gone wrong, you want to find out now and make adjustments before a crisis situation arises. Second, it’s important to set a schedule for making regular backups. It’s not ideal to wait for World Backup Day to make your backup copies! If you only use your devices periodically, an occasional backup is okay; if you’re making changes all the time, then you’ll want more frequent copies. Consider a recurring calendar reminder for manual backups, or explore your cloud backup solution for information on automating backups. Also consider making “special” backups as necessary: for example, have you just taken lots of pictures from a trip, wedding, or other special event? Have you been working on a lot of creative projects lately? Just getting through tax season and have all your digital filings and supporting documents all organized? You’ll want to make a copy just in case something bad happens to your computer. Finally, consider using a combination of backup approaches as a failsafe, in case your data is particularly valuable to you. Having a local backup and a remote copy is more work, but provides more insurance that your data will be recoverable in case of loss, ransomware attack, or other disaster.
Doing the prep and running a backup can be a bit of a chore: it’s always more rewarding to create content than it is to worry about making copies of it! But if the worst happens, think of how comforting it will be knowing that you have a safe copy of your data.
Unfortunately, this World Backup Day, a lot of people are forced to stick close to home: why not make the best of the situation and start your own backup routine today?