Updated November, 2016
In the spirit of World Backup Day here is a friendly reminder to backup your computer.
Think of all the important stuff you may have on your computer. Pictures of your kids, the dog, and other family. Important files from work. Your taxes. Your video game save files ( :) ). Now think about how you would get them back if something happened to your computer. There’s really no excuse to NOT backup.
Hard drives fail. It’s a fact. The only question is “when”. Google says between 2-8% of hard drives die every year with the highest failure rates in years 2 & 3. Backup company Backblaze says 20% of drives fail within four years with 5% dying in the first 1.5 years and almost 12% per year after year 3. Comparitech says be prepared for failure after 3 years.
Other disasters can ruin your data as well. Environmental mishaps such as fire or flooding or even earthquakes can totally destroy your computer. Viruses infect 1 in 10 computers every month and the only cure is usually to wipe the drive. Laptops and computers are easy targets for thieves. How many times have you accidentally deleted a file or folder you didn’t mean to?
So do yourself a favor. Start backing up today. Below I’ve got a few suggestions on how to get started.
Online Backup Services (paid)
My personal fav is Crashplan. Carbonite and Backblaze also offer excellent online backup storage solutions. They are all priced similarly around $50 or so per year per computer (or around $5/mo). If that sounds like a lot (it shouldn’t, how much was that latte again?) think about the cost of replacing the data you might lose. All of them will encrypt your data before sending to their servers so it’s plenty secure & private. All of them are completely automated, you point out the folders you want backed up and the software takes care of the rest in the background and you don’t have to worry anymore. All of them have online access to your stored files so, for example, from your office you can grab that report you left on your desktop computer at home. You do have to pay for as long as you intend on using the service.
Online Backup Services (free)
Depending on the amount of data you have you could get away with free storage from places like Google Drive, Dropbox, Microsoft OneDrive, Amazon Drive, etc. Each of them has a few GBs by default and they have had over the years several promotions where you might have even more space available. Personally, between promotions and referrals I have over 30GB at Dropbox available. My Google Drive is around 150GB due to promotions and buying a Chromebook. Microsoft OneDrive (formerly SkyDrive) has around 25GB of space that I got way back in 2012. The point being even if you don’t have one service to hold all your files you probably have several that can add up. These are all automated provided you put your stuff in the proper folders. You can access your files from anywhere, and the files are (I think) all encrypted for privacy. Sure it’s a pain in the butt to remember where you have what stored, but hey… it’s free.
This is probably the easiest for a lot of people. Buy an external drive from any big box store and it’s more than likely to have some sort of automated backup software on it. Plug it in, run the software, and bam your done. You only pay the one time for the drive, no more recurring costs. If the software supports it, it should be automated (most are). Otherwise you can write up a small script that will backup the folders you choose. The data is likely not encrypted (most software won’t do this). The problem is this really only keeps you safe if your hard drive dies. Thieves will take this just as easily (if not more so) than a laptop, fire will burn this drive sitting right next to your desktop computer, and any virus you get on the computer likely has access to this drive as well. On the other hand, something is better than nothing right?
I chose Crashplan’s family plan because of the combination of price, convenience, and the ability to store a 2nd copy on my own servers (multiple backup locations). I use the 3-2-1 rule of backups and Crashplan lets me accomplish this. For each computer I have 3 different copies, 2 different types of media, and at least 1 offsite. 3 Copies because I have the original files, a backup to a local file server (you can use an external drive), and the version in the cloud. 2 different types of media because I have hard drives and the “cloud”, you can also use DVDs or BluRays. And the 1 offsite is the most important in case of local disaster (environmental or theft). I like having a local (read nearby) copy so if I do need it I can literally walk it over to the computer that needs data restored.