We all know we should backup our data but we don’t always do it correctly, read this to make sure you have got it right.

Reasons to Backup

  • you delete something you shouldn’t have
  • the hard drive or computer suffers a mechanical breakdown
  • the computer is stolen or lost
  • the computer gets infected by a virus
  • a catastrophic event occurs – flooding, fire, a plane lands on the building, you throw the computer out of the window in a fit of rage

Backup Methods

  • an external hard drive
  • digital tape
  • USB stick
  • DVD/CD Burner
  • the cloud

Types of Backup

A full backup copies everything including system files. An incremental backup only copies what has changed since the last backup.

Backup Strategy

Choosing a strategy that fits with what you do is vital to ensuring you can recover from any disaster. Decide how often you need to backup; it could be hourly, daily, weekly, monthly or any combination of these, decide how long you need to keep these backups for. If the data is business related or precious you might need to keep off-site backups.

How to Perform a Backup

Windows 7 and MacOS X come with backup software installed and ready to go. Both are easy to use and guide you through the process of configuring the backup schedule and choosing what to backup. If you have the installation disks for your Operating System and Applications, you can reduce the time the backup takes to complete and increase the life of the backup volume by excluding these from the backup schedule.

Copy is not the same as Backup

When you use backup software, the file structure is managed for you. The “properties” of the files and folders are also backed up and things like file ownership and creation dates are preserved. This makes restoring the files much easier because you can search by date and be sure you get the right version of the file you want to restore.

If you merely copy your files and folders to an external device you should always consider this as a temporary copy and not a backup. Otherwise, you will end up with copies of copies on your external disks which will fill up with duplicated data. When you backup these external drives using Apple’s Time Machine it is smart enough to realise you have duplicates and won’t necessarily back them up again; so you can have a backup drive smaller than your main drives (this is a sign of poor user file management).  Its always a good idea to make a quick backup or copy of your files before you apply an update or install some new software on your computer, but make sure you delete the copy after the installation or update is complete.

How to Backup Really Big Files

Graphic designers, video editors, music producers and others who create large amounts of data need a different backup strategy to the software that comes with Windows and Mac operating systems. The solution is to use a tape backup system which can store 1.5TB or more with compression. Projects are often created on one or more external disks which are then stored as an archive of the project. The next project uses new disks or the data is squeezed onto the previous disks. All of the data on these disks must be backed up to tape otherwise there is no backup, just online storage.

Backup the Cloud

Are you a cloud user? Is your business “in the cloud”? Do you backup all of your data that is in the cloud? If your cloud account is hacked or you or an employee accidentally delete something in the cloud you’ll need a backup. BackupGoo, Spanning and Backupify are services which will backup Google cloud data, for a fee.

Prove Your Backup

There is no point in backing up unless you have proven that it works. You should regularly try to restore a random file from your backup just to make sure everything works fine.

Future-Proof Yourself

When you buy a new computer make sure you consider how you will back it up. Getting the biggest internal drive you can afford in your shiny new Mac might mean you have to expand your backup devices too.


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