The Smart Way to Backup Your Computer Hard Drives

Backing up your computer data is no longer complicated or inconvenient and data storage costs are becoming cheaper year on year. High capacity external hard drives are plug and play simple to install. Online cloud backup solutions are plentiful, cheap and easy to set up. Internet service providers and companies like Google and Dropbox offer limited free backup and storage services which can be upgraded for a small monthly fee.

There’s no longer any valid reason why you data should not be protected against threats like computer viruses and ransomware, hardware failure or user error such as loss or accidental erasure.

Prudence and common sense is your first line of defence. Don’t mistreat your computer, don’t download suspicious files from the Internet, don’t allow untrusted individuals to use your computer.

Firewalls and anti-virus and other security software is your second line of defence. Human error is a fact of life, we all make mistakes. So it’s wise to use good software to check for and prevent the problems you might miss or never see coming.

But all the best practices and the strongest security don’t guarantee 100% security. Accidents happen, computer hardware wears out and fails, viruses can penetrate before you anti-virus software is updated. For these reasons, it’s essential to have a backup of all your most important data, securely stored and readily available for restoration.

If, or when, the worst happens, having a reliable backup can mean the difference between total loss, or at least expensive and time consuming recovery, and pain free (and often cost free) data restoration. And with modern backup methods you take a little time to configure your backup requirements once, and then you can let software take care of the details in the background as you carry on with your day to day activities.

Local Backup Methods

Perhaps you are in the habit of manually copying your critical data to another hard drive in your computer, or maybe to an external drive or USB memory stick. This is better than having no plan at all, but it has serious flaws.

You need to remember to perform regular backups. Let the routine slip and your backup will be out of date. If you are backing up to an internal drive or even an external drive, what happens if the computer or device is stolen, or breaks down?

Besides, the aim is for convenience as well as data security. It’s not very convenient to carry around external drives or USB sticks. It’s far from convenient to navigate around file systems, copying files.

There is plenty of software that helps you set up scheduled backups to internal or external devices. Both Windows and Mac computers have built in backup facilities, such as Windows Backup and Restore, and Apple’s Time Machine. This makes the process simpler and more reliable, but your are still exposed to a number of threats such as hardware loss, damage or failure.

Having a local backup of your data is still useful and probably ought to be part of your overall backup plan. But for greater reliability and security you should also consider offsite backup solutions such as cloud backup or storage, or dedicated offline backup software.

Backup Your Data to the Cloud

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The “cloud” is a general term used to describe the vast array of computers, storage systems and computer services, operated and maintained by third party companies in a huge number of locations around the globe and connected by the Internet, and made available as a shared resource.

When you backup your data to the cloud you transfer your files across the Internet to secure storage professionally maintained by experienced technicians. Multiple copies of your files will be stored in multiple locations to protect against hardware failure. Often your data is encrypted so it is unusable by anyone except you. With the arrival of cable/ broadband and fast upload and download speeds, cloud storage and backup is now a viable way to store your data offsite so you can recover it using any device that has an Internet connection.

It used to be a complex business, setting up cloud based services and configuring them to work with your computer. But modern software and services have made this process simple and accessible so non-technical individuals can be up and running with no experience required. You may already be using cloud services to store your photos, videos and other personal files. Your mobile phone of your Google, Amazon or Apple account often sets these services up for you.

Most cloud storage and backup services offer a limited amount of free space to get started, but you’ll quickly bypass these limits. Media files take up a lot of storage space. 5 gigabytes or even 10 can seem like a lot, but in reality represents a couple of HD movies and a few hundred holiday snaps. The good news is storage space can be upgraded for just a few dollars a month.

Some of the most popular cloud storage services are listed below:

Head over to any of these sites and sign up for free. Follow the on-site documentation to get set up. Read up on the apps provided by these services that allow you to set up synchronisation between your hard drive and remote disk storage so you can automate the process of storing your most important files in the cloud.

And if you want to extend your free storage space then sign up for multiple free services and easily tie them all together in one simple interface using odrive, which is also free. This way you can get anywhere between 50 – 100 gigabytes absolutely free and manage all your offsite storage just as you’d manage the files and folders on the hard drive within your machine.

It’s a smart move to backup your data, even smarter to back it up in a secure location that protects you against hardware failure and online threats. And you can do it all for free, which is even smarter.

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About the author

Photo of Erik Fullmer

Erik Fullmer

Erik was raised in many places but has long since called Utah home. Rooted in mountains, he spends a lot of time with his dogs in the mountains and in the winter he skis… a lot.

Erik is actively earning the necessary certifications and training to become a certified AMGA Ski Guide.

With over a decade of content writing experience, Erik finds passion when writing for the tech and outdoor recreation industries.