Following on from last month’s post about ransomware, we touched on the importance of backing up your data. In this post we’ll discuss the surprisingly easy methods to backup your data for peace of mind.
If you need help setting up a backup solution, please contact us.
What is a backup?
A backup is a copy of data (documents, files, etc) that is often stored away from the originals and can be called upon to restore anything that has been misplaced, deleted or is no longer accessible – such as after a hard drive failure. They are easy to keep and can save you from losing photographs or important documents if anything happens to your computer.
Using an external USB hard-drive
With the cost of storage having dropped dramatically over the last few years, it’s now cheaper than ever to create backups on an external hard-drive. These external hard-drives can be bought for under £50 and provide an easy way to backup data and store it away from the source. To backup data onto an external hard-drive, you have a couple of options:
Copy files manually
You can simply copy files over to the hard-drive manually by using Windows Explorer – this is a simple and cost effective way to backup data but can be time consuming and may be prone to missing folders that you’ve forgotten about. You will also have to remember to update the backup each time you make changes to your files.
- Connect the external USB hard-drive to your computer
- Open Windows Explorer and navigate to the newly connected drive – this is often the D, E or F drive, depending on whether you also have a CD drive
- Your drive may have some documentation files on there already, which can be safely deleted if you wish
- Now find any documents or files that you wish to keep from your computer, select them (or the entire folder), right-click them and select Copy
- Go back to the external drive, right-click an empty space and select Paste
- Repeat steps 4-5 for all files you want to backup, then disconnect the external drive and keep it someplace safe
Using software like CrashPlan
One of the easiest ways to perform a backup is to let a program do it for you – many of them need very little configuration and can be setup to do everything automatically, so you can set and forget. CrashPlan enables you to do just that – simply install CrashPlan, tell it to use your external drive and which folders to backup, and it’ll do the rest.
- Download CrashPlan from their official website
- Follow the instructions from CrashPlan to install it
- Connect your external hard-drive to your computer
- Open CrashPlan and configure it to use your external hard-drive
We can install and configure CrashPlan for you to give you that extra peace of mind, please contact us and we’ll be happy to help.
Asking Windows to do it for you
Depending on your version of Windows, you can setup backups and enable features such as File History to automatically perform backups to your external drive.
Windows 7 offers a backup service that should be offered to you when you first connect your new external hard-drive (it can also be found by searching “backup” in the Start Menu). This will periodically create a system image of your entire computer that can be restored in its entirety or accessed to retrieve single files.
Windows 10 offers a feature called File History that creates copies of your files and documents every time it detects a change; this can be useful if you’re prone to accidentally overwriting or deleting files or your computer contracts a virus or malware. This is a very powerful backup solution as it can keep a large number of copies of each file that can be restored back to a specific date or time. You can setup this feature by searching for “file history” in the Start Menu.
Using cloud storage
The availability and popularity of cloud storage has grown exponentially in recent years and for good reason: your files are stored in a physically separate location; so they’re safe from flood, fire and theft. Cloud storage has lots of other advantages too: you can access the files from any computer with an internet connection and you can keep files in sync across multiple devices.
Often a free cloud storage account provides sufficient storage space to store your most important files, but if you do need more, these providers often charge a reasonable monthly or yearly fee to greatly increase your storage space – meaning you can keep everything you need in the cloud. There are a number of providers to choose from, all with their own advantages: Dropbox, Google Drive and OneDrive are a few of the main contenders.
They are also very easy to use; you’ll need to download a small program from the cloud storage provider to your computer that will create a “cloud storage folder” that you can copy files to or use to store all the documents you’re working on. The program will automatically upload these files to the cloud storage solution without you needing to do anything.
- Register for an account with a cloud storage provider
- Download their program that will guide you through the setup process
- Start using the cloud storage folder on your computer to backup or store your important files
Using a network-attached storage (NAS) device
Network-attached storage (or NAS for short) devices are becoming increasingly popular; they act as an external hard-drive for all of your devices in your home, be that your desktop computer, your laptop, your mobile, or anything else that you want to connect to your home network. They remain on almost all the time and require very little power, and can provide many services as well as act as backup drives; such as streaming home movies or photographs to your smart TV.
A NAS device is typically a smart hard-drive (or multiple hard-drives for redundancy). It works in a similar way to an external hard-drive that you can connect to your laptop but instead of connecting it directly to the computer you wish to access it from, you connect it to your network and access anything stored on it from any device that also connects to the same network (your laptop via WiFi, your desktop via Ethernet cable or even your smart TV). They can be more difficult to setup and configure than other backup services, but are very useful and reliable.
We can provide, setup and configure a NAS device for you, please contact us and we’ll be happy to help.
We’ve looked at how to backup locally and considered options for backing up online. It’s hard to recommend a specific type of backup solution though as everyone’s requirements are different; you might only have a few documents to backup or you may have an entire lifetime’s worth of documents and photographs. If you need advice or assistance with choosing or setting up a backup service, please contact us and we can recommend and setup a service to your specific requirements.
Using an online service is perfect for small amounts of data, but impractical (and possibly too expensive) for large amounts of data, especially if your internet speed is not up to the task. Most people will benefit from backing up both locally and online or a mixture of both. Documents, for example, which are important and often need to be accessed quickly, are best backed up online. Photos and videos can be archived on a hard-drive or NAS as they often don’t need to be accessed as frequently or quickly.
Remember that the online approach takes away concerns of corruption or loss by relying on the provider to take care of your data. On the other hand, there are no guarantees that the service provider will stay in business for the long term and so also keeping a local backup can provide a level of confidence.
If you don’t yet have a backup solution, hopefully this post has demonstrated that it doesn’t need to be as time-consuming or expensive as you might have feared. And remember, every effort you take to backup your data will be well worth the trouble if your hard-drive fails, you suffer a virus attack or your laptop gets lost or stolen.