Computer is a machine, it cannot work forever, hard drive could fail in next minute, files might be deleted accidentally, every piece of data must have backup. If there is no backup, those files could be lost forever.
Backups is not easy, but not rocket science. There are countless backup methods, if you Google ‘How to backup data’, which one is the right choice? And what files do we really need to back up?
Bear in mind, first things first, personal files must have backup. Operating system may be re-installed or upgraded, as well as software. If computer hardware fails, the irreplaceable file is always personal data. To specific, personal documents, pictures, videos, contacts, local archived, emails, and any other important data should be backed up regularly. Nothing can replace all of them. For instance, 10 pages research paper in multi days and ready to go public, you definitely don’t want it goes varnish for any reason.
In terms of computer system, all software including operating system can also be backed up. It is not compulsive, but it can make life easier if there is backup for entire hard drive. Particularly if you like to explore operating system files, change hardware, download software from the Internet, having a full system backup may save lots of time when things go wrong.
The right ways to do backup
As technology is developing so fast, nowadays we can use not only a portable drive to backing up files, it is also possible to transfer backup to the cloud (a remote server over the Internet). Let’s have a good at PROS and CONS of each:
By using an external USB hard drive to do backup, operating systems provide various built-in features.
- Windows 10 and 8: File History
- Windows 7: Windows Backup
- Mac OS: Time Machine
Remember to regularly connect the drive to the computer, and then run the backup tool. It is a good way to leave it always plugged in so that back up will be done automatically.
Pros: The cheap and fast way to do backup.
Cons: backup media must be stored in safe place, in case of fire or stolen.
Backup to the Cloud Drive
To maximize safety of files, the cloud drive is a very good choice. Files can be uploaded on cloud drive like Apple iCloud, Dropbox, Google Drive, Microsoft OneDrive, or a similar cloud storage service. A sync program can be downloaded from those cloud service providers, then it automatically sync to your online account and to your other PCs, smartphones and tablets. If one day the hard drive dead, you can easily retrieve the copies of the files stored online and on your other devices.
Pros: Also easy method, and fast. Most providers have powerful distributed server cluster to against all types of data loss.
Cons: Most cloud services only offer a few gigabytes of space for free, so this only works if you have a small number of files you want to back up.
Recommendation: Create at least two backup copies
Now it is the best practice of doing backup for personal files. We recommend to have both offsite and onsite backups.
“Onsite” means all backups stored at the local hard drive. In practice, backup copy is stored in portable drive or another PC.
“Offsite” backup copies are stored somewhere not in your house, e.g. Cloud Drive, your personal server in data center.
Onsite backup copies are faster and easier, and should be the first line of defense against data loss. If there was file lost or damaged, we can quickly restore them from backup drive. However, offline backup should not be relied alone. As mentioned before, in case of fire accident, backup drive got damaged or stolen, so all files disappeared.
Offsite backups include: Cloud drive, hard drive placed in office or friend’s home, etc.
Further more, there is a software called CrashPlan allows you to create backup to a friend’s computer for free. Chinese giant search engine Baidu offers 2TB cloud drive, that should be enough for most people to store all files on the Internet.
The most important thing: remember to perform regular backups, and get both onsite and offsite backups from the same program. Always develop a solid backup strategy for wide safety net to against ever losing files.