Is your data safe? I don’t mean from hackers, I mean from catastrophic computer failures. We all hope it won’t happen to us, but do you really want to lose your music collection, digital photos or that paper you’ve been working on for 2 weeks? There are a number of ways to back up important data, and it’s even recommended that you use more than one of them, just to be safe.
The first level of data protection is often a local backup - usually to an external hard drive or a flash drive. If you own a business, experts recommend keeping a backup drive off-site so that you’re also protected should something happen not just to your computer, but to your business itself.
One way to get your data to an external backup is to manually copy your important files to another hard drive or flash drive. This isn’t necessarily the easiest way, however, and it requires that you remember to do it! There are also many software programs that will do it for you. On Apple computers, the more recent operating systems come with Time Machine. Windows 7 machines have Backup and Restore built in, and Windows 8 uses File History. You can also do a search for ‘best backup software’ and you’ll find guides and reviews of both free and paid software options.
A second way to back up your data is to use online, or cloud solutions. While not strictly backup tools, cloud-based file storage services provide a small amount of online storage space for free (generally 2-15 GB, depending on the service) and additional space for a monthly or yearly fee. Some cloud storage services come with your email, like Microsoft OneDrive, Google Drive and Apple iCloud, and also feature access to online office software. Some services, such as Dropbox.com and Box.com, provide software that you can install to automatically sync one or more folders between your computer and the online storage, and your files will also be accessible online through their website. As an additional bonus, most of these services are also accessible from smartphones and tablets, which means you don’t have those photos and files taking up precious storage room on your handheld device.
Which cloud solution you choose depends on how much room you need, or if you need advanced features. There are so many options, it’s worth it to do some comparison shopping before picking one. You can search for recommendations, reviews, or lists of the best free and premium services. For example, I searched for ‘best cloud backup storage’ and found ‘The Best Cloud Storage Services for 2015’ from PC Magazine and ‘36 Online Backup Services Reviewed’ from about.com’s Tech page. One warning, though - it’s recommended that you do not save sensitive data to online storage, unless you encrypt the file first. (Some services offer encryption among their options as well.)
I hope this inspires you to make regular backups, if you don’t already, or gives you some ideas for more options try even if you do. Comment below if you know of some great services or software to recommend!