030: Do YOU have a backup?

It’s the question I hate asking because I know all too frequently the answer is a horrified Nooooooo.

Do you have a backup?

Stuff happens, hard drives die, Computers get stolen, dropped, caught in floods, fires and various other disasters, both natural and man-made.
There’s also cyber attacks that can lock you out of your data or destroy it.
Or maybe you simply deleted something by accident. There are probably 1001 different causes that all mean you don’t have access to those
files anymore.

But what if there was another copy, a backup tucked away somewhere, far enough away to be out of harm’s way but close enough to be retrieved in a timely fashion if needed?

It sounds so simple; just make a backup. But how? There’s almost as many ways to backup as there are to lose the data in the first place. I’m going to introduce you to several. I’d like you to think about the pros and cons of each.

But please do me a favour and pick one and do it, even if you only do it once a quarter. At least you’ll have something if everything goes bad.

I’ll start by discussing a few terms.

External Storage: If you have an external hard disk plugged into your computer and store your files on it it’s not a backup! If it’s the only copy of that file, there is no backup. Just because it’s external to the computer and on what is often called a “backup drive” doesn’t make it a backup. If the external drive is a copy of all the files on the computer, that’s a backup, of sorts.

On-site and Off-site.

An On-site backup is on the same premises as the computer. That external hard disk plugged into the computer as a backup is great and convenient but also dangerous. If there’s a theft, fire or some other disaster, the backup is likely to be gone as well as the computer.

An off-site backup is somewhere else, preferably several kilometers away.
There’s no point in your neighbour having your backup if their house is  destroyed at the same time as yours.

Back in the dim dark past, my elder sister used to back up her files to CD and give a copy to her younger sister for safekeeping. I think they did it the
other way around as well. They were always a few suburbs away, or further, so it was safe.

Another friend of mine kept a backup CD in her Post-Office Box. Just a permanent envelope at the bottom of the box out of the way but ready to be
collected if needed.

Any sort of backup you do to the Internet or the cloud is by definition off-site.

Automated and User Driven.

A user driven backup requires you to remember to do something: put the DVDs in and out, unplug the hard disk and take it to a safe location, whatever it is. Some people are well suited to these tasks and can just remember or set alarms to do them. Other people are better suited to automated systems to do everything for you in the background. You know what sort of person you are!

Okay then, options. Firstly I’ll cover the user driven backups.

These include: memory sticks, external hard drives and DVDs. These are generally fairly inexpensive but require you to do the work of remembering and then doing what needs to be done. Some of these can be partially automated. I use a three hard disk system for work that backs up to an external hard disk on a 4 hourly basis. This is all fully automated. The manual part comes where I have to swap that external hard disk out on a weekly basis. The drive from the computer into the local safe and then the one from the safe into my car to go home.

Have I ever forgotten? Yes. Is it perfect? No. Is it good enough? Yes, I believe so.

The other consideration of these manual backups is the backup medium itself. Hard drives and memory sticks do die over time, especially if treated roughly. DVDs are single-use and wasteful although you can use the rewritable version but they’re susceptible to damage and loss and age as well.

Automated backups include systems like Dropbox, Google Drive, iCloud, OneDrive and dedicated backup systems like Carbonite.

Many of these systems operate on a freemium model where you get a smallish amount of space for free and then pay for more if you need it.
Currently, as at the end of 2018 Dropbox gives you 2Gb of data for free,
iCloud and OneDrive give you 5Gb and Google Drive gives you 15Gb shared
with your Gmail and Google Docs.

As you may remember from Maggie’s question a couple of weeks ago, Google will also store all of your photos for free possibly at slightly reduced quality, but not anything you’re likely to notice. Google is currently my favourite for this reason.

There are also dedicated backup systems that will backup not just your documents but also your Programs, Settings and everything else on your computer. I’ve used Carbonite in the past and been quite happy with it. The biggest drawback of any online system being the time it takes for the initial backup and the amount of data from your internet provider that may be consumed.

It’s also worth noting that if you’re attempting to restore from a system like Carbonite, it will take some time to redownload everything and eat into your downloads. It depends a lot on your internet speed and any data transfer limitations that may be in place.

Hopefully that’s given you something to think about.

Post in the comments below to let me know what backup type you use. Maybe there’s something I’ve forgotten.

At The Tech Doctor Network, our goal is to help you negotiate the technology maze. Come back every weekend for new videos or subscribe and ring the bell to be notified.

I’m here to help. Thank you so much for watching and have a great day!

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