Robin Olsen holds a B.Sc In Computer Systems and has over 20 years of IT Experience. In that time he has worked in many different industries
Backups - the new 'shoebox in the closest'
Today millions of computer owners have thousands of pictures and thousands of songs stored on their computer hard drives. Add to that resumes, love letters, tax returns and whole host of other pieces of personal data we really don't want to lose and clearly the personal computer has become the proverbial 'shoebox in the desk drawer' of the 21st century. It is our filing cabinet, our photo album, our record collection and our portable recreation center and it is down right inconvenient when it doesn't work.
Better back that up!
Ask yourself this question, what would you rather lose? Your car for a day or your computer for a day. If you answered 'your car' then read on, this article is for you.
Backing up your data does not have to be intimidating but it does involve making some choices. What is the best way to backup your data?
The good, The Bad and the ... out of date
OK, ok so no one uses a tape drive anymore not even very large corporations so except for the fact that you would probably never want to do that, it depends.
DVDs used to be a good choice, but today most computers do not even ship with a DVD installed as a standard piece of hardware so using DVDs for storage would require too much extra expense as you purchased the needed hardware for very little gain as far as space per disk goes. Their day is over now as well.
Now for the bad ideas, just so we know what they are. Hand held flash drives are for temporary file storage for the purposes of transfer and should not be used for long term backups in my opinion. There is a reason these are only 10 bucks, they are not very durable, and sometimes can be difficult to read on different computers.
An excellent option is USB external hard drives. These are generally cheap and have massive storage capacity from the perspective of the home user, in the terabyte range now - which is really lots of space. They are robust and can be easily and repeatedly reused over and over again as much as you want. When the backup is done you can simply remove the USB external Hard Drive and store it someplace safe until you need it again. You can pick up a USB terabyte sized external hard drive from any technology store.
So what's the down side? Well, that backup software that ships with the OS will probably not even recognize the USB drive as a legitimate backup drive so you either have to do manual backups or purchase backup software that allows you to designate customized backup locations and devices.
I suppose the computer savvy among us could create a batch script to backup certain directories but for most of us it is either manual of purchase some software. Fortunately a GUI interface helps the manual process along quite nicely and depending on how you store your pictures and music, you can simply drag entire folders over quite easily.
The cloud is free!
Backing up over the cloud is not a bad solution but given all the hype over data snooping, as well as the recent hacks of cloud based corporations affecting hundreds of customers, I prefer to keep my backups local.
If you do wish to use the cloud then there are many options, with more being added every day. Microsoft cloud access ships with all of their operating systems. Be sure to read any agreements very carefully and ensure you keep ownership of your photos and music and other personal files. Many of these sites take ownership from you and some won't allow you to delete these backup files at a later date.
One should consider what would happen if access to the internet were to be disrupted for some reason, technical or otherwise. All of a sudden your personal backups are not even accessible to you.
Local vs. Offsite
Well, that's it... backing up is pretty easy really
In the end, how you decide to backup your data is up to you, there are many options available and they are not as complex as they used to be.
Too many times I have had friends and customers alike come to me after the crash and wonder if I can get anything back as they have no backups and it is only after the crash they realize that the home computer has become the photo albums and encyclopedias of the 21st century. Don't let this be you.
My personal preference is to do manual backups to USB external devices as I keep full ownership and control of my personal files this way. It is a simple matter of dragging and dropping your profile directory onto the USB device and let the copy happen. Since all user specific data is usually located in the profile directories this should backup everything important.
I would like to end it with a quick word on backing up 'everything'. Most home users do not have to back up anything other than their profile directories as reinstalling the operating systems on almost all new computers today is done via a protected logical partition on the local hard drive. As long as no one has ever formatted that drive since the computer was purchased there is no need to back up your operating system unless it is highly customized, which most users do not have.
If you are the type of user that just uses default directories for documents and pictures then backing up the profile directory should be more than good enough to protect everything.
Further information and reading
- The Beginner's Guide to PC Backup | PCMag
Hacks and data failures happen. Don't lose your photos, documents, music, or other important files. Ahead of World Backup Day, here's how to secure your data.
- iOS: Back up and restore your iOS device with iCloud or iTunes
- Top Computer backup systems | Computer backup system Buying Guide – Consumer Reports
Looking for the top computer backup systems? Read our computer backup system Buying Guide from the experts you can trust to help you make the best purchasing decision.
- 6 Ways to Back up a Computer - wikiHow
How to Back up a Computer. These days, more and more people are using computers to store memories, important documents, and various other bits of information that may need to be kept for long periods of time. Backing up a computer is...
This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. Content is for informational or entertainment purposes only and does not substitute for personal counsel or professional advice in business, financial, legal, or technical matters.
© 2012 Robin Olsen
Thelma Alberts from Germany on February 26, 2018:
I back up my photos with USB and External Hard Drive. I don´t trust Cloud. Thanks for reminding me of backup. I need to do that again.
Dianna Mendez on December 19, 2017:
I do need to find another way to backup my photos. I use USB right now because it's a quick save for me. It pays to backup your data!
Maurice Glaude from Mobile on July 06, 2016:
I prefer local for sure. The cloud is easy though. I currently use an iMac but haven't bought a backup system yet.
Marlene Bertrand from USA on March 31, 2016:
You have provided some much needed and valuable information with this hub. It is sometimes difficult to make the right decision about back up systems. I like the idea of the cloud for most non-personal things. But, too bad no method is purely safe. If someone wants to get into your computer... they can. I also like the idea of the external hard drive, especially for personal items. I'll be devastated if I should ever lose my hard drive. I have everything backed up on that thing.
Peg Cole from North Dallas, Texas on November 20, 2015:
Great reminder of things that we need to do to ensure our data remains safe. Thankfully, I have a tech savvy husband who has created a storage network within our family of computers. Also, I back up my photos to DVDs from time to time, just to be doubly sure.
Shauna L Bowling from Central Florida on July 24, 2015:
I have a WD external hard drive that I backup my files to. It's easy to set up - no manual actions necessary. You can also tell Windows how often and at what time of day to perform the backup. Here's how to do it:
Nithya Venkat from Dubai on May 16, 2015:
This is a great reminder for people to backup their work, I use an external hard drive to backup my work.
Robin Olsen (author) from Rural Canada on March 17, 2015:
Chitrangada Sharan from New Delhi, India on March 17, 2015:
A very useful hub with the information I was looking for. This is quite helpful and I would follow your advice of backing up my precious photos, documents etc.
Voted up and thanks for sharing, pinned as well!
Robin Olsen (author) from Rural Canada on February 23, 2015:
Try and get a local copy of important stuff Mary, you won't regret the effort...
Mary Hyatt from Florida on February 21, 2015:
I have been lax about back up. I transfer my photos to Google + and just use a thumb drive for docs. Good Hub with good info.
Robin Olsen (author) from Rural Canada on June 11, 2013:
Personally I do not support online backups as you do not have control over your data nor can you be certain that your private data is protected. Remember that each and every site has site Administrators and they can see everything there is to see on their sites. I DO use online backup (the 'cloud' so to speak) when I am on the road and I have something I really need to back up right away and I do not have a flash drive handy. But I am under no illusions that this is either private or protected. When I get home I always remove it and store it on my own HDD. If you are using this now I highly recommend you get an external USB drive and start using that. No, I do not like online backups, the whole concept is not something I support. Good question though
AlexDrinkH2O from Southern New England, USA on June 11, 2013:
What do you think of online backup sites such as Carbonite?