Everyone who has a computing device – be it a smartphone, a tablet, a PC or a laptop – has data that he or she values. Literally everyone. And that’s ok! The downside is that if you value your data, you’ll also be rather unhappy if you lose them. Sadly there are lots and lots of ways to do so: Natural disasters (just think hurricane season in the US, flooding in Germany, etc.), technical issues like the common hardware failure, ransomware, the loss of your device … you probably get the idea. The best way to avoid losses is by making regular backups. What was a hassle a couple of years ago – take that, 3,5” floppy discs! – is thankfully pretty easy and stress free nowadays. Let’s take a look at your backup options.
How to backup
This actually sounds like a no-brainer:
- Choose the medium you want to secure your back up on (see below, “Where to backup to”).
- Decide what data you want to back up. The whole device including the OS? Just some images and personal files? All your work data? Your programs and their settings? Make sure you forget nothing!
- Once you know what to back up, you need to figure out how to proceed. Will you secure your files manually or via a backup plan? The latter has the benefit of reducing the amount of work you have to put into it once it is set up, which will be especially useful if you plan on securing more than a couple of personal files – and it will do the backups automatically in set intervals!
Where to backup to
So, you have everything ready for your backup and now only have to decide where to put all your valuable data. There are more options now than ever before, but not every one might be right for you.
CDs, DVDs and Blu-Rays
A couple of years back it was all the rage to back up your files on one of those disks. While that might not have been the worst idea ever, it certainly is not the best either. Sure, they can store your data for a very long time – at least if handled correctly – but there are also drawbacks. First off, they are rather small. CDs can store data up to 700 MB (that’s right, not even a gigabyte!), DVDs 4,7 GB, and Blu-ray discs 25 (single layer) or 50 (dual-layer) GB. While the latter ones might be big enough for your backup, there is also the issue of discs being rather sensitive and vulnerable to data rot if not stored correctly. Should you decide to use them as your backup device, make sure to keep them in a cool and dark place, away from direct sunlight.
Those small and handy storage devices can store up to 256 GB of your data easily. There are bigger ones available, too, but they are harder to get and way overpriced.
Since flash drives are convenient, easy to store, and can hold a good amount of data they are becoming more and more popular for storing data. If you choose to use one yourself keep in mind that they sometimes just stop working. Out of the blue.
Normal Hard Drives
Oldie but goldie this option is still number one when it comes to where to put your backup data. Where once you were happy to having a hard drive with a couple of gigabytes available, you now can store several terabytes on them.
Be it as a single external hard drive or a whole NAS, those things can store whatever you throw at them. Their price is also more than fair: For 50€ you’ll already get several terabytes of data storage goodness. The drawback: Compared to the other options a normal external 3,5” hard drive is huge.
If you decide to go with this option you should probably replace the drives after a couple of years to make sure they don’t break down while you are still using them.
In the Cloud
Ah, the ominous cloud. Basically it’s nothing else than the good old web space from old, just in a shiny new robe. Your backup is being uploaded to some server online and you can then access it from everywhere you are – normally without any issues. It is a rather convenient option, especially since you will not have to make sure that your backup device is in good working condition. Someone else will take care of it for you.
While very convenient there are also some things you should take into account:
- You will most likely have to pay for the upkeep of your online cloud space, normally on a monthly basis. How much depends on your cloud provider
- Privacy: Depending how much you care take a look at the privacy guidelines of country and company.
- Your data is “out there” which means that it can fall into the hands of cybercriminals far more easily than if your data is being kept on a separate offline drive
That’s it! While still only a rather shallow overview it should at least give you an idea about the choices to have when doing a backup. Think it true and choose whichever one you feel the most comfortable with.