Think fast. When’s the last time you backed up the data on your smartphone? Your laptop? What about that desktop computer you still use occasionally? Now take a minute to imagine losing all that data. Picture all those photos and documents in your mind. Data recovery can be costly, so this is the year to start backing up your most valued digital files.
Anyone who’s survived a massive data loss doesn’t want to live through that pain again. Without a solid backup plan, you lose a lot—including the data itself as well as the enormous amount of time needed to replace what you can. Still, many individuals think they don’t need to back up their data. Really. That’s not wise; it’s just risky.
What should I back up?
Most folks view duplicating files as a chore but there are ways to simplify the task. First, decide what needs saving.
A system image is one desirable option; it contains the entire hard drive, including settings, operating system, emails and other features in addition to files. If your old drive fails or is lost, you can restore the entire system rapidly. Some backup services also offer this option. System images let you retrieve a single document or the whole drive, but they also occupy large slices of space on backup media.
Copying files and folders is another approach. You will get the subject matter, but you’ll need to rebuild its software foundations first if your device is damaged or stolen.
Mac users have an option called Time Machine that backs up an entire drive then adds updated versions of changed files as well as new additions. You can then choose to go back a day or a month to retrieve a lost file or a recently damaged report.
Should you encrypt that backup?
Here’s your second decision, and it’s a biggie. Some manufacturers strongly recommend encryption. There’s also a competing view that believes vital duplicates shouldn’t be encoded. If you lose the encryption key, there’s potential trouble recovering data. If the duplication drive fails, that creates additional challenges. It is a personal decision.
What’s the ideal backup plan?
Industry studies indicate that the majority of people and businesses back up their data at least once a year. Just once. Does that mean that the last year’s work is expendable? Of course not. Frequency is vital in protecting your devices.
Try the 1-2-3 approach. That means keeping at least three copies of vital data, not just one. Where those copies reside is important, too. If you elect to have an external hard drive sitting on your desk as a backup, their physical location is the same as the original files. In the event of fire, theft or flood, both the original and the insurance drive get compromised.
Choose your backup options carefully. Remember the floppy disk? Backups stored on one of those is tough to access today. Will an original USB device work if your tech has all switched over to USB-C?
For example, USBs or flash drives may provide a safe home for cherished photos for just a decade. They’re not intended for long term storage. Solid-state drives are safer for archiving data you want saved indefinitely. Don’t forget that tech is ever-changing. Choose a device that you’ll be able to access for a long time, password protect it and—this is critical—don’t forget to check your backup periodically.
A local copy allows rapid access, but a cloud copy is smart. Many companies offer cloud storage. Be sure you understand whether your preference is cloud backup or just storage. Inquire about whether passcodes and keychain files will be copied and stashed.
Ideally, you want a service that offers versioning. This feature keeps multiple copies of a single document if you edit and amend it. Versioning allows you to go back to view several different drafts.
Finally, consider automating offsite copy. Some options will back up hourly as you create files. Later, that storage shifts to daily as time passes.
Backup now, and you’ll be safer in the event of a power surge, a burglary or a soaked smartphone. You’ll also beat the rush on World Backup Day, March 31st.
Individual users should embrace the 1-2-3 approach with at least one backup located offsite. Test backups periodically. Even DVDs won’t last forever. Most of all, keep it simple. Your best option is at least one copy initiating in the background as you work on your device. Don’t forget to label backup media.
IDShield is a product of Pre-Paid Legal Services, Inc. d/b/a LegalShield (“LegalShield”). LegalShield provides access to identity theft protection and restoration services. For complete terms, coverage and conditions, please see an identity theft plan. All Licensed Private Investigators are licensed in the state of Oklahoma. This is meant to provide general information and is not intended to provide legal advice, render an opinion, or provide any specific recommendations.