December 29, 2014
If you haven’t backed it up, then you don’t have it. So goes the rule about copying and archiving your computer data. If your files - documents, photographs, videos, music etc. - are not backed up in at least one secondary place, then they’re as good as gone. While the culprits may vary from a computer virus or hard drive malfunction to hackers, a robbery, or even a spilled cup of coffee, the result is the same: Instant data loss. And once it’s gone, with no backup, it’s gone forever.
Why risk that when backing up is so easy?
The most common backup choice is the external hard drive. You simply purchase an external hard drive, plug it in using the USB connection and when the dialog box appears, select the backup option. It’s very paint-by-numbers.
The first time you back up, the process time will be lengthy since you’re doing a “full” backup, i.e. copying every single file on your computer. Subsequent backups will be quicker as they’ll be ‘incremental’, only files that have been created or modified since the last backup will be copied.
After the initial backup, you should get into the habit of backing up at regular intervals, either once a week or once a month. It’s also sensible to store the backup drive in another location i.e. your office, a storage locker or at a trusted relative’s home. That way if an accident destroys your primary computer, your backup will emerge unscathed.
Suggested external hard drives:
Seagate Backup Plus 1TB - The Seagate duplicates files at lightning speed thanks to its futuristic Thunderbolt adapters. It offers a choice between backing up manually or automatically and will also back up any files uploaded to social media platforms. The downside for Mac users is that the drive must be reformatted to accommodate Apple computers.
LaCie Rikki Superspeed 1TB USB 3.0 - This drive is ultra-small, ultra-fast and features automated software that lets you plug-and-play on both Macs and PCs. It comes in an aluminium case that’s stylish, lightweight and durable.
Western Digital® 1TB My Passport Ultra USB 3.0 - The Western is a sleek, pocket-sized device from one of the largest computer hard drive manufacturers in the world. It is password protected and hardware encrypted for extra security. Versions of the drive are available for PCs and Macs.
If you prefer not to fuss with hard drives, then cloud-based storage is a great alternative. In the cloud model, a link is created between your computer and a remote data centre. Your files are copied and uploaded to secure servers.
Cloud storage costs a small monthly fee, but a host of benefits justifies the outlay. The cloud gives you access to your data from anywhere, at any time. No need to go looking for a holy-grail-like hard drive. Many providers offer unlimited file storage, so no more pruning your files for space. You can select automated backups and have your files backed up weekly, daily or even hourly with no action required from you. And if your computer suffers a major mishap, recovering your files simply means logging into your cloud storage account, selecting the files you wish to recover and downloading them.
Suggested cloud providers:
CrashPlan - An automated backup service that works while you’re not on your computer to create a digital archive of your documents. Data is protected with 448-bit encryption, in layman terms, that’s military-level security.
Backblaze - Backblaze is also automated and offers military-grade encryption but additionally features 30-day retrieval of deleted files. If you’d like a physical copy of your backed-up files, Backblaze can send you a duplicate of your data on a 128 GB flash drive or on a 4TB external hard drive.
No backup plan is 100 per cent certain, but the more plans you have in place, the lower the chances of failure.
Supplementing the backup plan:
USB Flash drives - They’re too small to handle your entire computer hard drive but ideal for backing up selected files and folders. They’re cheap, available in encrypted formats and easy to keep on your person.
Dropbox - It was not designed for backing-up data, but with 2GB of free storage available, why not stash your most important folders there? Dropbox can synch your files across different devices, making updates a breeze. It’s also highly secure thanks to 256-bit encryption and two-step verification for access.
Backing up data can seem like an onerous task, but in reality the options are plentiful and generally user-friendly. So ask yourself: If my computer is stolen today, do I have a data recovery plan?
Shade Lapite is the web editor at the Ontario Real Estate Association.