Best Practices to Backup and Store Your Data

Posted on January 12th, 2015 by Justin Powell in Basics, Technology | Comments Off

For many people, losing their computer data ranks fairly high as the worst type of information to lose. Don’t get me wrong, losing actual physical records to something like a fire or flood is still considered catastrophic, however most people now spend and store their lives on their home computer. How many photos, videos, or projects would you lose?

Backing up your data isn’t as rigorous anymore as it used to be. I remember sitting at my computer for hours back in college, backing up my projects and artwork by burning them to CDs. Luckily, the same results can be achieved by either a drag and drop or by pushing a single button if setup right.

Physical Backups

Physical backups are what comes to everyone’s mind when they think of backing up their data. These are backups you can make with disks, CDs, USB thumb drives or external hard drives.

The benefits to having a physical backup of your data is that you can take them with you and use them on the go with other computers. Most physical storage devices are made to easily be recognized on other computers and are relatively cheap for the storage capacity you’re buying.

There are of course downsides to physical backups however. Most physical backups like USB thumb drives come very small now days. It’s easy to lose or misplace your important files during something like a move. Obviously if you lose your data, you run the risk someone else may find it and keep it. There’s also hardware degradation to worry about. CDs will scratch, disks can snap, external hard drives can have their motor damaged and USB thumb drives can be destroyed. I find that USB flash drives are more resilient compared to other methods of backup however.

Network (Remote) Backups

Network backups are becoming slowly phased out by the use of the cloud when it comes to home use however, network backups are still the best method for businesses. I’ll briefly explain both and their uses.

A network backup is considered the backing up of data by sending your files through a network connection to another computer, usually to an off-site location. Network backups are very secure and the reason why most businesses still use this method. The remote computer containing the network backups are usually monitored by a network administrator. These administrators can assist users who forget their passwords or other general problems. There’s no needless worry involved about information falling into the wrong hands since the data is contained on a company computer using a secure line. Most network administrators keep multiple instances of their backups running at the same time in case of hard drive failure. If a flood were to happen at the office and all the computers were damaged, business can still resume as normal once they install new computers.

The cons to setting up a network backup is that they are tedious to setup and impractical for home use. A vast majority of home PC users don’t have the luxury of owning a second off-site computer. Some may argue that tedium isn’t a major factor, however most home owners take the time to setup home networks with full file storage capabilities. This isn’t to imply that the home computer owners are limited to their options.

Cloud Backups

Cloud storage is a relatively new feature that service websites are starting to provide. For a small fee, you can pay for a website to backup your data on the cloud. This allows home users to remotely backup their data on a website’s servers run by administrators. Most of these service websites will hold your data on multiple hard drives and at more than one location, giving the user complete accessibility whenever they want. Most sites also offer a means to connect to both your home PC, tablet and smart phone. Big name sites such as Dropbox, Google Drive, Microsoft OneDrive, and Apple iCloud allow you to enjoy their limited services for free and offer their full services at very reasonable prices.

You may say to yourself that cloud storage sounds like the end-all of backing up your files however there are various downsides to this method. Security is a big problem when it comes to backing up your data to the cloud. Even though most sites take extreme precaution to prevent hacker attacks, they can’t protect you if you happen to write your login info on a piece of paper and lose it. Yes, you can change your password but in most cases it could already be too late. There’s also the problem that service websites are susceptible to going out of business. While this hasn’t been a major problem up to when this article was written, it also doesn’t necessary mean you’re completely protected either.

On-site Backups

On-site backups are any backups you keep with you at all times and on hand. Since this also falls into the realm of physical backups, I’ll be a little more specific. On-site backups are kept for quick restoration purposes. Computers have the capabilities to contain more than one hard drive within the rig. Some of you may experienced hard disk problems or maybe you accidentally deleted something you weren’t supposed to. Backing up your data on more than one drive gives you the quick ability to go back and save your work. From my personal experience, accidental deletion has been the most common form of data loss in the past. Because of this, I always install a second drive for storage reasons whenever I buy a computer. As computers change so do the methods of on-site data storage options. One of the best methods to backup your data is to keep a mirrored image of your hard drive. This puts to use a second hard drive that assures you that you’ll still be able to use your computer should one drive’s motor die on you.

You could probably already guess the apparent issues with on-site backup. You don’t have the benefits of being able to recover data if your computer is completely destroyed and you don’t get the luxury of being able to access the data handily.

Conclusion

Regardless of the cons of all these methods, your percentage of data loss vastly decreases with every method you add to your arsenal of recovery options. I highly recommend home PC users use the rule of three. On-site backups, physical backups and cloud backups. If you’re lazy like me, you can also practice backing up data by importance. I usually keep my every day use files on my on-site backup drive, and my harder to replace files on the cloud and on physical backups. I personally only put my important records and documents on encrypted physical backups that require a password. That way they’re useless to strangers and if they’re destroyed, no one can use it to request a business or government agency to give them duplicates without being me.

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