Backup Best Practices
For any backup method, there are a few best practices to consider following. One of the most important is testing. What good is a backup if it’s not backing up what you need, or not working at all? It’s a good idea to test your backup by restoring a file and making sure you can access that file. Also, be sure that all your important data is being backed up. Make a list of what’s critical and share that with your backup provider or support tech. Another important step is to keep a copy of your backup offsite. If your computer system is stolen, lost in a fire or suffers water damage – you want the ability to recover the information from a second location. It’s also a good idea to encrypt your backups. Usually, the backup software will offer the ability to encrypt your backups so that only you can read it. That way, if your backup is lost or stolen, nobody will be able to read sensitive information that may be stored there. Finally, you may want to keep multiple revisions of a backed up file. For example, you might find you have a corrupt document that’s been backed up for a while. By restoring from an older backup date, say a month or two ago, you can sometimes find an earlier version that isn’t corrupt. For help for any of these practices, check with your IT support provider.
Cloud backups are very common these days, and for good reason. This type of backup works by copying your data to central storage servers housed in a datacenter. In the case of your home desktop or laptop, there would be software installed and configured to backup specific areas (for example, your Documents or Pictures folders). In the case of your mobile device, it may be built into the device and associated with your Google or Apple account. Cloud backups offer many advantages, and for most solutions they follow the best practices outlined above. There is usually no hardware to purchase or maintain, only software to install and monitor. The only real drawback is having to pay monthly or annually for the service, although it’s usually less expensive than other backup methods when you consider all factors.
External Hard Drive
This backup method involves using an external hard drive plugged into your desktop or laptop. Often, software is bundled with the external drive to perform the backups. The software will work similar to a cloud backup, but instead of storing the data offsite, it’s saved to the external hard drive. One drawback is that the data is stored locally only, and not offsite. There are cases where a virus damages the files on the external hard drive and therefore your backup is useless. Also, external hard drives aren’t the most reliable devices and can fail. This backup method offers an inexpensive solution, but be sure to follow the practices discussed earlier so you have a solid backup plan.
As we store information digitally more and more, having a reliable and complete backup solution is critical. In some cases, it’s your only method of recovery from a disaster or a ransomware attack. Make sure you have a solution in place before you find out you need it!