Data is quickly becoming one of the most important assets in the modern world. Everything, from photos and documents to home videos and emails, contains important information that you want to keep safe. Which is why today, March 31st, we’re celebrating World Backup Day.
World Backup Day is one day out of the year dedicated to backing up the files and data we hold dear. It’s a lot like spring cleaning, but for our digital lives. But how would we go about doing that? Simple: by using either external hard drives, online services, or both.
Before we start we need to assume one thing: that all of your mobile devices — smartwatches, tablets and smartphones — are backed up to a central computer, be it a laptop or desktop. With that out of the way, let’s dive in:
External hard drives
External hard drives protect your data on a physical device that’s — drumroll — external from your main computer. They’re about the size of a book, with storage space ranging anywhere from 300 gigabytes to multiple terabytes. Typically, you’ll want at least a terabyte of space on your external hard drive to back up your devices.
External hard drives are great because they are the reliable workhorses of data redundancy. You can bring them wherever you go, you don’t have to worry about access to Wi-Fi and they’re handy when you’re setting up a new computer.
How you go about actually backing up files and data on your computer depends on your operating system. If you’re an Apple user, simply connect the external drive, launch Time Machine and click the “Backup Now” button. Simple as that.
Windows users, by contrast, have a few choices to make when performing a backup. Windows 10 users need to go to Settings, Update & Security, select “Backup” and “Add a drive.” Once set up, Windows 10 will back up everything in your user folder, every hour. To change Windows 10’s backup defaults, or to create a carbon copy of your computer, go to “More options.” Be warned, though: creating carbon copies of your system eats up a lot of space. Make sure your external hard drive can handle extensive backups if you insist on having an exact duplicate of your current system.
Alternatively, you can use a cloud solution (a service provided over the Internet) to back up your data. Cloud-based backup solutions are advantageous for those who don’t want to think about backing up their files and those who don’t want to have to worry about space on an external hard drive.
With cloud-based solutions, all you have to do is subscribe. Almost all solutions out there automatically back up and protect all of your computer’s files (think synchronizing your iOS devices with iCloud). It’s probably the simplest backup method there is.
However, there are a few disadvantages. First, you need to have an Internet connection for these solutions to work. Second, these sites require maintenance from time to time — which means sometimes you won’t be able to access your backed up files. Finally, as with all online services, there’s a chance your account could get hacked — especially if you use a weak or reused password. If you do decide to use a cloud service to perform backups, be sure to follow account security best practices.
What should you do?
Personally, I’d back up my data to both solutions. Here’s why: an external hard drive is fragile. It can be broken, lost, stolen and more. Having an online copy builds strong data redundancy. Likewise, cloud servers have the potential to go down for maintenance, leaving you without constant access. Keeping a physical copy of your data helps to ensure that you’ll have what you need, when you need it.
Regardless of what you do, you should have at least one backup of your initial backup as a failsafe. Buy an extra drive, subscribe to another service — every extra security measure counts.
And that’s it, really—pretty easy, right? Backing up data is a very simple way of protecting your digital livelihood. It doesn’t take a lot of time and, when done regularly, can give you a clean bill of digital health. Have fun backing up your files today!