In the world of computing, there are two words that will be permanently ingrained in your head . . . SAVE & BACKUP!
While it’s a no-brainer that we should frequently backup our files on our computer, there is a tendency for us not to do it or not to do it frequently enough. Often times, we’ll wait until we run into major problems like clicking hard drives, bad sectors on a hard disk, disk read/write errors, boot failures, blue screen of death (BSOD), flashing folder with a question mark and so forth. Other times, it may be something like accidentally overwriting a file (ex: using Save instead of Save As), deleting files we thought we did not need but in fact we did, file corruption and so forth.
With the availability of affordable high-capacity external storage, free & paid cloud storage and backup automation, we should all get into a good practice of frequently backing up files on our computers. Whether you choose to perform manual backups or utilize backup software to automatically perform backups, backups are a must! You’ll never know when something may happen to your files which will make them irretrievable & irrecoverable.
The most basic approach to backup is periodically copying your files manually to external physical storage (ex: external hard drive) or cloud storage (ex: Dropbox, OneDrive, Box). Set a schedule where you sit down and spend time copying your files from your computer onto external or cloud storage. Become disciplined . . . Keep a routine/set schedule for performing the manual backups. If you prefer automation, you can use backup software like Windows Backup & Time Machine for macOS which are included in the current versions of Windows and macOS, respectively. After a few configuration steps, your backups will run on a recurring schedule to the storage medium of your choice. There are also third-party backup software applications that you can use to perform similar backup functions like that of Windows Backup and Time Machine (ex: Acronis True Image, Carbon Copy Cloner) as well as direct backup to cloud storage (ex: Carbonite). Regardless of which application you choose to use for backup automation, be sure to check on the backups and review the logs to make sure your backups run successfully as scheduled. A common mistake is to setup an automated backup and make the incorrect assumption that the backup has run successfully when in fact, it has not. Don’t make this mistake!
Keep in mind that if you primarily use cloud storage to store all your files (ex: Dropbox, Google Drive, iCloud, OneDrive, Box), you should still keep a backup of those files on external storage or another storage medium. You are typically responsible for the files you store onto cloud storage and cloud storage providers will usually have a disclaimer and clause that absolves them if there is data loss (review the service agreement / terms & conditions). While providers should have backup and redundancy in place, even with a service level agreement (SLA), don’t rely on the provider to be responsible for the backup of your files on the cloud. Even if the provider should be able to restore your files after a massive data loss, the recovery and restoration can take quite some time depending on the scale of the data loss and scope of the impact. If you have files that you need to access at a moment’s notice, you don’t want to rely solely on a third-party provider. Don’t chance it and keep your own set of backups.
Tip: When using cloud storage, make sure to sign-up with reputable providers (you don’t want to use some fly-by-night provider that can shutdown at any moment). Review the security and encryption features offered with the cloud storage account and use strong-passwords to secure your account from potential breaches. Routinely change your passwords and if available, use two-factor authentication.