How to Backup Your Data…..and Never Lose Data Again

Everyone who has a computer, must  have a way to backup their data. Not only do they need to have copies of all their essential files up but, it needs to be regular and automatic in order to be effective.

What’s Not a Backup

A lot of people say oh, my files are backed up, but if it is not regular and automatic, there is a much higher risk of data loss. Some examples of bad backup strategies are:

  • “I copy my files to a flash drive/external hard drive every now and then”
  • “I burn my files to a CD/DVD when I remember”
  • “I email files to myself every now and then”

While these methods do create extra copies of files, they are not guaranteed to be the most recent, nor are they automatic relying on the person’s memory which may not be the most reliable when it comes to regularly backing up.

So if all those strategies are not good backups, what does it take to have a good backup? These are of course just my thoughts, but ensure that data is safe and I am proud to say, I have not lost data in very long time.

3-2-1 Backup

One of the most popular backup methodologies is the 3-2-1 backup. This method encourages using more than one backup and utilizing multiple types of media for backing up. So what does 3-2-1 mean?

3 copies of every file

Those files should be on at least 2 different mediums, whether online, external hard drives, flash drives, CD/DVDs, or any other storage mediums.

1 of those copies needs to be off-site in the event of fire, flood, theft or any other physical damage to your home or office, which could leave backups in that location just as vulnerable as your computer.

In my opinion, online backup is the best way to backup your data because it is off-site and very secure allowing users to encrypt their data so it can only be accessed by the user using an encryption key they create. But as the 3-2-1 strategy suggests, no single method is perfect and it is best to have more than one backup, using multiple types of media.

My Backup Strategy:

Personally, I use CrashPlan which is $50/year for unlimited data backup for my computer both the internal hard drive and external hard drives. In addition, I   have a secondary backup of all the data on my internal hard drive using Time Machine on my Macbook. All my documents are on Dropbox which offers 2 GBs of storage for free (and can be increased either by recruiting new users or by purchasing more space) so all those files are backed up on Crashplan, Dropbox and on my Time Machine Backup. I admit, I might be a a little extreme with my backups but, it is great to know that my data is safe in case the worst happens.

Backup Strategies: 

While my backup strategy may not work for everyone,  there are so many options for backing up and protecting your data.

External Hard Drive:

The most basic method of backing up data is setting up an external hard drive for automatic backups. Lifehacker has a great set of instructions on setting this up on both Windows computers and Macs using their respective built-in backup systems.

Online Backup:

My favorite method of backing up data is online backup. Online backup is great because the data is kept off-site, securely. So if there is a robbery, fire or other disaster, an external hard drive is just as vulnerable to damage as your computer. With online backup, you pay for the service either monthly or annually and data is automatically uploaded as files are created or change as long as the computer is connected to the internet. It also means that users don’t need to remember to connect your computer to an external hard drive in order to backup. The one disadvantage is those who have many large files, the initial backup may take weeks or months. However, the benefits of online backup when it comes to connivence and safety   There are many choices for online backup services, and I have used several different services over the years.

  • Backblaze: Backblaze is similar to Crashplan (see below) as far as features and price however,  it doesn’t have the option to external hard drives or friends’ computers.
  • Carbonite: Carbonite is probably the biggest name in online backup but, it has it’s limitations. The most basic plan is $60 per year, and it limits which file types it backs up and it only backs up data on the internal hard drive. For those who want to backup external hard drives,  will need to get the Plus account which is $100 per year and only is available to Windows users and to automatically backup video files, they will need a premium account which is $150 per year and once again only available to Windows users.
  • CrashPlan: CrashPlan is what I currently use to backup my data, it cost $60 per year for unlimited backup for a single computer including external hard drives. There is also a less expensive 10 GB backup plan and Family Plans that are better are a better price for 3 or more computers as well as multiple year options for extra savings. In addition to a strong online backup service, Crashplan can also backup to external hard drives and to computers of friends using Crashplan as well.
  • Mozy: Has a 50 GB backup plan and a 125 GB backup plan for $6 and $10 a month respectively, which for many users is more than enough storage space.  This works out to be slightly more than the Unlimited backup from Crashplan and does not offer all the advanced features Crashplan has. The other issue I had with Mozy was when I used it, granted this was several years ago, was the Mac version had a fair amount of bugs.

One of the other advantages of these backup services is because the data is backed up to the internet, it is accessible anywhere there is an internet connection and all the services listed above have mobile applications, making forgetting a file a thing of the past. Now, any file backed up is accessible from any web connected computer or mobile device.

Other Strategies:

Some people may be apposed to paying for online backup despite the enormous benefit however, backing up data is still important. They can automatically backup to an external hard drive as described above but off-site backup is still essential. There are however, other ways of having an offsite backup without paying for an online backup service.

This can be done by having two or more backup drives and rotating them out to a safe location. For example, leaving a backup drive at a friend’s house or in a bank safe deposit box. By backing up data to a drive and then putting it somewhere safe, your data will be safer than just backing up to a local external hard drive.

Another more affordible method of off-site backup is using the free Crashplan application as described above and backup to a friend’s computer that also has Crashplan installed. This takes less effort than swapping hard drives out every now and then. The problem with both solutions however, is they are limited to the size of the external drive or the friend’s computer. Online backup is still the best solution but, the most important thing is that all your important data is backed up and in multiple places.

Final Backup Tips:

  • There is no such thing as too many backups
  • Data Recovery from failed drives costs over $1,000 on average.
  • Hard Drives have a 13% failure rate annually- See Crashplan’s graphic of various media’s life span.- Choose your media wisely!
  • Backup everything, even if you don’t think you need- especially if you have unlimited backup, USE IT!
  • Once your backup plan is in place, you don’t really have to do anything and you have the peace of mind knowing your data is safe

3 comments

  1. Hey, thanks for the shoutout! Love the emphasis on a 3-2-1 backup plan and this line “There is no such thing as too many backups.”

    We designed CrashPlan to support these philosophies, which is why we make it possible to back up directly to an external hard drive and to a friend’s computer over the internet, as well as to our online destination.

    I did want to address some facts in the comparison section that could use some correction. Under the Backblaze section, they now back up files of unlimited size. CrashPlan does this as well.

    CrashPlan+’s *yearly* cost is $60 for the individual unlimited plan. Monthly, it’s $5.99. This includes external drives as well. There is no free 2 GB online plan, but there is a reduced price 10 GB plan. There’s also a family plan – if you have 3 or more computers, you’ll get the best price with a family plan.

    Full pricing information is available at http://crashplan.com/store

    Thanks!

    -Ryan at Code 42, makers of CrashPlan.

  2. Mike Gdovin says:

    Ryan,
    Thank you your feedback. I have revised the article with the correct information.

    -Mike Gdovin

  3. […] up one’s data is essential to protecting oneself from data loss. As I have mentioned in previous posts, online backup is the ultimate backup because even if a disaster strikes one home or office, the […]

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