What's Your Backup Plan?
backup Aug 20, 2016
I’m not one for using fear tactics, but generally people start to get nervous when talking about backing up their digital files. Why is that? I think it’s because, even though we live in the digital age, no one feels completely comfortable replacing that nice tangible paper. When you have a stack of paper or a ledger, you know exactly where it is and whether it is safe. Even if you file it away, it takes up physical space in a filing cabinet, and you can go right back and pull it out if you want. If you have locked, fireproof cabinets, you feel safe because they are protected in case of disaster or break-in. Maybe you even keep copies somewhere else, like a corporate office. That was the old backup system.
Our computers may emulate the look of paper. But honestly, where does all your work go when you close the program and shut your computer off? It’s all there, but it’s not. Sure, you “save” it, but is it really safe? If your computer just decided never to turn on again, or smoke started pouring out, would you know how to retrieve your files? Does the very thought make your break out in a cold sweat?
We all know we should “save early and often.” So what about backing up our files? We don’t even know where all our files are physically, how are we supposed to know how to back them up? And where is the safest place to store our backup files? You could get an external USB drive, which will save you if your computer goes up in smoke, but not if your house or office burns down or gets broken into. You could save it to the Dropbox or Google Drive, but that can get expensive… and let’s face it, not everyone’s comfortable with online storage. (The expression “where in the world is that document?” can now be taken literally).
Ok, so once we find our files, how do we protect them? Here are some good principles to follow for a solid backup plan:
- Keep at least a daily local backup on a USB or network drive for easy access. Use a program like SyncBack for Windows or Time Machine for the Mac. (I don’t recommend using Windows Backup or most programs that come pre-loaded on consumer-grade external backup drives).
- Keep at least a weekly off-site backup for bigger disasters, like fire or flood. Here, you can use cloud storage, if you are comfortable with it, or you can rotate backup drives to another location every weekend.
- For extra piece-of-mind, keep continuous versioning file backups (for the occasional “oops, I deleted it!”) as well incremental system backups (for quickly recovering from computer crashes).
My personal favorite for a comprehensive backup plan is CRASHPLAN™ by Code42 (www.crashplan.com). Their software is free and easy to set up using local storage. Even if you opt for cloud storage, their prices are pretty reasonable – and they use 448-bit local encryption by default, so none of your data is visible to anyone except you.