I write this article feeling rather shame-faced. I, Sarah – the supposed “Savvy Surfer” – almost lost all of my data from my computer recently, because I had failed to back it up properly. My computer spectacularly crashed earlier this week when I plugged a simple cable into my USB. One minute I was typing away, the next I had a blank screen and no amount of pressing buttons was going to bring my beloved MacBook back to life.
Before I go any further, I need to let you know that this story of impending disaster ended happily… this time! I took my computer to some great guys who had a play around with the motherboard – and Ta-Da! It was fixed within 72 hours for a great price and thankfully with all of my data still intact. One of the ‘great guys’ who fixed it told me it was,”a sign”. Needless to say, ever since then I have been on a backing up mission!
So as boring a task as this might sound, this is one of those basic activities that you need to do… regularly – and you need to teach your children to get in the habit of doing the same.
So why is it so important to back up your files?
We’ve all heard plenty of stories about people losing all their data when their computer crashes, or when it becomes infected with a virus. Then there are, of course, other stories of loss or, even worse, theft of our computers and other devices that contain sensitive and private material. But we never think it’s going to happen to us. Until it does!
If my story sounds familiar, you will be aware that it is rare for your computer to give you a warning of when it is about to break down. In fact, it usually happens at the most unexpected and inconvenient time. Just when you have uploaded (but not backed up) the latest photos of your family vacation, or when your teenager has just finished that 1,000 word essay that’s due in tomorrow.
So now, we realize it’s important to do it, but what’s the best way to backup our computers so that we also protect our information?
Local Backup Vs Online Backup Solutions
Long gone are the days where you had piles of (badly) labelled floppy disks lying around the house, which made the task of backing up your data tedious and time-consuming. Most computers don’t even come with a floppy disk drive anymore but not to worry, there are many other options out there for you now – some online and others that are local, for example, CD’s or flash drives. Of course, there are both advantages and disadvantages associated with each, and we look at these below.
Local Backup Options
One of the main benefits of using local backup options are that they have generally been considered more secure. Your information stays with you at home rather than being held remotely. They are also much faster to use, both for backing up and for retrieval, should that become necessary, than online options. This is because you are not using your internet connection to upload or download your information.
However, where most of us fail with our backup plans (yes, me included) is with establishing a system of backing up on a regular basis along with the organisation and safe storage of these backup devices. If you don’t backup regularly, this becomes a useless way to backup pretty quickly.
What is more, there are issues with storage. CD’s and DVD’s need to be cared for and stored carefully, as well as being labelled so that you know where your information is. Flash drives and external hard drives can stop working without warning in just the same way as your computer can. If you fail to store these in a safe place or if you carry them around with you, then they can no longer be described as secure. They could easily be lost or stolen and your data could be easily accessed. The suggestion is that your local backup is placed in a safe, which is both fire and waterproofed – and that you have a backup of your backup!
Cloud or Online Backup Options
Online backup solutions offer an array of features that do away with many of the inconveniences associated with external hard drives or DVD’s and this is why they are fast becoming the preferred method of storing data.
While in the past, people have been concerned with security issues of moving information over the internet, it is now accepted that online backup providers use encryption and security measures that we wouldn’t think of using at home.
Using online solutions for your backup means that you are able to automate your backup. Often, you only have to set this up once and then the backup service does the rest. You can access and work on your documents on all your devices, syncing documents over the Internet, making it very convenient. Sharing photos of the family or files with others is as easy as pressing a button. Some providers even offer the ability to wipe your data remotely from your computer – which is a great feature in the case that your computer is lost or even stolen.
However, one of the major drawbacks of these solutions is the cost. Although, most of the services offer some free data, this is not usually enough to back up your entire computer. To backup your data, there is inevitably a cost incurred
The other disadvantage is that it often takes a long time to both upload and download all your information via the internet, when you do a complete back up. Although, generally you should only need to do this once, depending on the amount of data you have and the speed of your internet, this can take several days, or maybe weeks to complete.
Don’t throw your external hard drive away yet!
With all of the benefits that come with cloud storage solutions, it’s tempting to do away with the local methods of storing data. The convenience of storing data remotely outweighs the disadvantages in my opinion, and I would absolutely recommend having a cloud storage solution as part of your backup plan.
However, my personal suggestion would be to backup using a combination of both local and online methods, if you can. Do a local back up and place that in a safe – and update it on a monthly basis. If you lose your data, then you will have a copy that is a maximum of one month old available while you download your documents from your online storage.
But please don’t leave backing up your data until you get a “sign” – or worse, until you actually lose your data – and while you are going through the backup process, talk your children through it and show them how to use the technology so that they can learn to backup responsibly too.
Please leave me a comment telling me how you back up your data.