This article does not explain how to back up your files, but rather how to securely store your files. How important are your photos, emails, multimedia and document files? Could you afford to lose them forever if the device they were stored on suddenly ceased to function, became corrupted, was stolen or got destroyed in a fire? I’m sure that for most of you, the answer would be a resounding NO!
Whether you work with computers outside of your home or run a home-based business, you can be the subject of data loss. This article does not apply to users who work for a company where the tech department takes care of data backups.
I have been the recipient of many a frantic call that starts with “Help me! My computer won’t turn on.” For those users that have a backup plan, this is a non-issue, more like an inconvenience. However, it’s a completely different (possibly devastating) story for those unlucky users who did not follow the plan, or just got lazy and decided that backing up their data once every six months was ok.
Suppse the worst thing that could happen happens! Your storage device (hard drive) in your computer finally dies. Now, you have to get a new device and re-install everything. It’s not such a big deal. It may take some time, but you will be fine. Installing an operating systems like Windows 7 or MAC OS X is easy enough and re-installing all of your favourite apps may take some time, but in the end you will have everything back up and running like before, well, almost like before. What happened to all of your data? Did you remember to back it up in case of an emergency? This is one of the most important things that needs to be done if you use a computer and are personally responsible for your data.
Before I get into your storage options, I would like to remind you that any information you back up should be taken off-site for safe storage. Backing up your data and leaving it at the same location where you backed it up from won’t help you much. If your property succumbs to a fire or theft, then both your original data and your backup will be gone (with one exception, read on)!
The big question is…how often do you need to back up your files? This question is easy enough to answer. Just think about how much data you could afford to lose on a daily basis. If you are only getting some personal emails, typing a letter here and there, or taking some photos once in a while, you could probably get away with backing up once a week or so. It’s really up to you to determine how much data you are prepared to lose. When it comes to backing up photos, don’t back them up every time you do your backups. If you backup the photos you took five years ago there is no reason to keep backing up the same photos since they are not changing. Just make a copy of the photos once and safely store them away.
So how do you protect yourself? Fortunately you have many options to choose from. Most of them are inexpensive or even free. One great place to store your backed up data is your safety deposit box (if you rent one) at the bank. Your first option is to back up your data onto a DVD. A DVD’s stores approximately 4.7 gigabytes (4,700 megabytes) of data at the cost of 20 cents per DVD. Each time you make a new backup, take the DVD to your safe location and replace the copy that you made previously. You can choose to either keep the prior backed up DVD’s or safely dispose of them. Your next option is to use a USB flash drive, which ranges from 1 gigabyte (1,000 megabytes) to 64 gigabytes (64,000 megabytes). As of this post you can purchase an 8 gigabyte flash drive for less than $7. You will require a minimum of two flash drives depending upon how much data you have to back up. The reason for needing two drives is because you will be flip-flopping the drives each time you take your backup off-site. If you take drive #1 off-site the first time, then the next time you do your backup you will back up your data onto drive #2 and replace drive #1 with drive #2. You will then bring drive #1 back with you to do your next backup. A more expensive option is an external USB hard drive. General consumer external USB drives start at approximately 500 gigabytes (500,000 megabytes) and go up to 3 terabytes (3,000 gigabytes – which is overkill). As of this blog, costs for these drives range from approximately $80 to $300. Obviously, you will only need a drive of this size if you require the amount of storage capacity they offer. Remember, you will need two of these drives so you can flip-flop them. You see, banks can do more than just service-charge you to death!
Another physical off-site storage option (if you feel comfortable with this one) is to leave you data with a nearby relative or friend. You will be ok as long as your backed up data is stored off-site.
A more expensive solution that can be used for more than just storing your backups is a home fire & burglary safe (about $750). This is a good option if you don’t have a safety deposit box or some other off-site location to store your backups. If you go with this option, the process for backing up your data would still be the same. However, you won’t need to purchase 2 USB flash drives or external drives since they will be stored at the same location where the backups are taking place. Just remove the drive from the safe, do your backup, then place it back in the safe.
This next and last option is free, or will have a minimum cost depending upon how much storage you need. These days, “cloud” based storage is here to stay. This means that web providers allow you to send your files over the internet to their backup storage servers for safekeeping. The following is a current list of a few main-stream remote data backup providers. The capacities I’m listing are for free storage. You will have to pay a monthly or yearly fee if you require more space.
Microsoft offers 7 gigabytes of free storage on their “SkyDrive” service, Google offers 5 gigabytes on their “Google Drive”, Dropbox offers 2 gigabytes and ADrive offers a whopping 50 gigabytes. If you decide to sign up with all of them, remember to use a different password for each one!
There are some pros and cons about using internet based off-site storage that you should take into consideration:
* Starter accounts are free (as long as you don’t need more storage space)
* Easy to back up data (most just use a “drag & drop” option, or use a folder that automatically synchronizes your data)
* Most services let you share your files with others (really great for sharing videos and photos). No need to email your photos anymore
* Some companies like ADrive allow you to edit your documents online
* Secure: These companies back up their own servers so your data is safe
* No need to purchase storage media such as DVD’s, USB flash drives or external drives
* You can access your backed up data from anywhere in the world as long as you have a connection to the internet. Some services even let you use your Smartphone.
* Files are encrypted (secure) and compressed (for faster transfer) when using a web browser.
* No access to your files if your internet connection goes down (but how often these days does that really happen?)
* Your data is secure, but may be a target for a hacker to try to access
* The speed at which you transfer your files to and from these sites are dependant upon your internet connection speed
* Does the company guarantee your data will be kept private?
* Uses up your monthly data transfer allowance from your internet provider
* You have to check with the company as to what happens if they go out of business? Good luck contacting Google or Microsoft!
To help you get started, you may want to add a recurring “backup” reminder to your calendar until you get into the routine. All in all, it does not matter which storage solution you choose, just make sure you back up your data on a regular basis!