Prepare For The Worst: Disaster Recovery Tips You Need To Use Now

Laptop on fire   Prepare For The Worst: Disaster Recovery Tips You Need To Use NowNo! This is not happening to you right now! It’s 1:30 AM, you’re almost finished with your huge project due at 8 AM and your computer just crashed and won’t turn on! Worse yet, you haven’t saved for a whole two hours because you were so far in the “just get it done” zone that you completely forgot to save it. How are you going to explain this to the rest of the people relying on you to get this done? How are you going to forgive yourself for the consequences if you don’t get your work back or done on time? And how are you going to get any sleep?!

Contrary to my goal as a writer, I sincerely hope you can’t relate at all to the above introduction. However, we all know something similar or worse  has happened to someone we know and even ourselves. Hopefully not, but the truth is that it does happen. And it happens far too frequently. Now let’s get on with how to prevent this sort of thing from happening and what to do if it does.

Backup NOW!

backup now   Prepare For The Worst: Disaster Recovery Tips You Need To Use Now

Actually, read the rest of this article first, and then backup. I recently wrote an article regarding why you need to backup and 6 reasons why you haven’t done so already. Your biggest enemy is simply putting it off. Why do we create such a mountain out of such a simple process? And notice I said “we” – I do it too. But the fact is that you could read all of this, agree with it and still not do anything. You must act and just set up something. Even if it’s not perfect, it’s a start. Then later you can tweak and perfect it to your liking.

Use Different & Multiple Locations & Media

backup media   Prepare For The Worst: Disaster Recovery Tips You Need To Use Now

There are many methods of backing up and unfortunately this can become an obstacle to us. It can be slightly confusing as to what is the “best” way to go about it. The fact is there are many options, but only a few real good ones. Of course, like most things, each has their advantages and disadvantages.

In the MakeUseOf article, What Is The Best Backup Solution? – [Geeks Weigh In], Matt Smith covers various mediums such as external hard drives, cloud storage and physical media (CDs/DVDs). There are also flash drives, which weren’t directly mentioned by Matt in the article and likely because it would take multiple flash drives, each with a lot of space.

Let’s briefly look at the advantages and disadvantages of each type:

External Hard Drives

external hard drive   Prepare For The Worst: Disaster Recovery Tips You Need To Use Now

Advantages

  • Portable and desktop versions.
  • Tangible and simple.
  • Relatively affordable.

Disadvantages

Flash Drives

flash drive   Prepare For The Worst: Disaster Recovery Tips You Need To Use Now

Advantages

  • Very portable.
  • Tangible and simple.

Disadvantages

  • Price per gigabyte typically more than hard drives.
  • Vulnerable to theft or physical destruction.
  • Don’t have large amounts space.

Cloud Storage

cloud storage   Prepare For The Worst: Disaster Recovery Tips You Need To Use Now

Advantages

  • Competitive: several options available.
  • Access files anywhere with an Internet connection.
  • Options often include live sync capability.
  • May be free to start with a certain amount of storage (depends on service).

Disadvantages

  • Reliant upon a stable Internet connection.
  • Pricing (after free storage is filled) significantly more than other options.
  • Vulnerable to hacking.

Physical Media (CDs/DVDs)

physical media   Prepare For The Worst: Disaster Recovery Tips You Need To Use Now

Advantages

  • Potentially inexpensive disks.
  • Storage expandable through purchasing more.
  • Most secure if stored in a safe.

Disadvantages

  • Time consuming to use.
  • Must have somewhere to store them.
  • Can be expensive to keep buying disks over time.

Backup Your Backup…And Maybe Back That One Up Too

We just went over various types of backing up. The great thing about them is you don’t need to have only one method. You can use multiple ones to make backing up your backup even easier. For example, let’s say you use a cloud storage service, but also an external hard drive. You can use both to backup the same data. You might even use two hard drives or two cloud storage services. The key is to backup what you are backing up to ensure you won’t lose any of your files.

Find Which Methods Of Backing Up Work For You

Perhaps one or more of the backup options don’t appeal or seem practical to you. That is perfectly fine. But do find one or more that work(s) for you. Do you want a couple of hard drives? Or do you prefer the online option instead? Maybe you want multiple flash drives or CD/DVDs? You can weigh out the option by matching up the pros and cons of the different types of media and then researching specific kinds, such as the various cloud storage websites or types of hard drives.

If you’re always on the go and connected to the Internet, perhaps cloud storage would be the best. If you own a desktop computer, then a desktop kind of hard drive would be a good start, but be sure to have at least one additional hard drive or storage location for another backup.

Make Your Backup Automatic With A Schedule

Something that cloud storage services do is constantly sync any changes made live. This is great and it really gives them an edge over other types of media. However, you can also create a schedule with various programs to make your backup to any external media device occur automatically.

There are lots of programs that can do this. Two of them that I recommend are SyncBack and SyncToy. Ryan covered automating your backups thoroughly on MakeUseOf: How To Automate & Schedule Regular Windows 7 Backups. Note that there is also an option right in Windows to set up a backup schedule. In Windows 7 this can be accessed in Control Panel > System and Security > Backup and Restore.

Don’t Trust Your Backup – Test It!

Just like backing up your backup, you don’t want to just assume that everything is backed up. Some programs show whether the backup was successfully completed or if there was an error. It’s nice when they do that. However, sometimes you have to “go digging” to see if everything was synced/copied correctly. It doesn’t happen often (at least it hasn’t to me), but there are occasions where the programs fail to complete the task correctly.

Also, be sure you aren’t backing up the same files multiple times. If you use a program such as SyncBack you can create several backup sessions for various locations of your computer to backup everything to the same external device. The trouble with this is to make sure you aren’t backing up duplicates, thus using up more space and adding to the clutter and potential confusion.

The Difference Between Syncing & Backing Up

Do you know the difference? Syncing is where both sides are affected. For instance, let’s say you have set up a program to sync the files from your computer to an external hard drive and vice versa. If you make a change to a file on the hard drive, plug it in and run the sync (or the sync may run automatically), then that change to the file will also occur on your computer.

Backing up is different in that it is a one way process. Changes made on the external hard drive will not be reflected back onto the computer. Also note that cloud storage services typically sync your files, not backup. That said, many also offer access to previous versions in case you want to revert back to a previous status of a file.

Simplify Your Backup Through File Management & Storage

file management   Prepare For The Worst: Disaster Recovery Tips You Need To Use Now

File management seems to be one of those astronomical tasks that you put way up on a mountain thinking it is something to strive for, but never reach. I will admit, it isn’t the easiest task. But it’s more time consuming and focus-oriented than requiring technical skills. If you can rename files, create folders, copy and paste, you can manage your files very easily.

Be sure to check out the MakeUseOf article, Creating Order From Chaos: 9 Great Ideas For Managing Your Computer Files, to read about this in more detail.

Ctrl+S Is Your Best Friend

Save   Prepare For The Worst: Disaster Recovery Tips You Need To Use Now

Save. Save. Save. Think about it this way – scheduled backups or live sync do you no good if you don’t save the file you’re working on, while you’re working on it. And what better time than when your hands are right at the keyboard? There are a lot of great keyboard shortcuts, but one of my favorite by far is simply Ctrl+S, which is the Windows shortcut to save. On a Mac this same shortcut is Cmd+S.

It’s Not All About Losing Your Files, What About The Rest?

…such as your entire computer, for instance? One of the primary threats and causes of disaster is malware. Thankfully there are antivirus programs to help, but often if they’ve already infected your computer, you might not be able to do much.

Here’s what you should do immediately though:

Looking up the problem on a search engine can help, but I recommend using a website called Select Real Security. It is stuffed full of excellent and helpful information to assist you in recovering your computer. Of course, MakeUseOf Answers is always available as well.

Conclusion: Prevention Is Key

Towards the end of the introduction, I mentioned what you could do if a disaster does hit you. Depending on your preparation, you can do a lot, or a little. If you don’t have a backup all you can do is redo your work that you lost and accept what has happened. Most people don’t actually think about the consequences of not having a backup and go through their life thinking “it won’t happen to me”.

Of course, this thinking occurs in many other controversial areas such as tobacco use, drinking and driving, not wearing your seatbelt and many others. The message here is – back up. You won’t regret it. I’ve never heard anyone say “Man! I wish I hadn’t backed up my computer”.

What are your thoughts on preparing for a disaster and recovering from one? Do you have any stories where you successfully recovered from a tragic situation? What about a situation where you lost everything? We’d love to hear your disaster recovery tips and stories below.  And remember to read our free backup manual by Tina, for more useful tips and information.

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If you have any questions related to what's mentioned in the article or need help with any computer issue, ask it on MakeUseOf Answers—We and our community will be more than happy to help.

22 Comments -

0 votes

Eric Wardowski

Excellent article! I also have seen CD rot ruin a perfectly good backup. There was another article here on that: http://www.makeuseof.com/tag/cds-truth-cddvd-longevity-mold-rot/

0 votes

Adam Campbell

thx good article, I use Time Machine to back up to a networked dell running ubuntu.

0 votes

vineed gangadharan

i backup my files on cloud not all but which ever matters to me…

0 votes

Alae Hatoum

And suddenly I’m all hyped out about backing up and I’m gonna do it right now .. Method of choice Mediafire ….
I personally work as a motion graphics artist and all my work is usuallu stored eventually on an external hard disk so if anything happens I will loose everything . The plan B for me at this moment though is that I upload most of my finished work to vimeo , since usually all my work build up to small clips and at any moment I can download that video again if I ever lost it

0 votes

Douglas Mutay

Thanks for the article. I have a backup on my HDD that I did not update for a long time. Time to do it! Thanks!!!

0 votes

Gerhard Tinned

Backup is the most important things you have to do to secure your data. Not only once i had people complaining of loosing a lot of data because of a computer problem. Most of them lost years of photos. I mean that can be a real eye opener if all your holiday-, birthday-, wedding-, celebration-, … photos are gone within seconds if something happens to your hard disc!

0 votes

Deekshith Allamaneni

Dropbox is my primary arsenal in this category. I am having a peace of mind because of Dropbox. I just drop and use all my important files in Dropbox and it will be synched on my three computers and of-course on Dropbox servers too. Thank you Dropbox!

0 votes

Somaiya Ebrahim

good article..I usually use a flash drive..

0 votes

ha14

you can also backup your files to a second computer and use the first one as principal pc, then in the worst scenario, open the second one and restore the first one:)

0 votes

Nicole ?

thankfully I carry my flash drive with me where ever I go

0 votes

druv vb

Excellent article. I backup all personal documents, media items, and other bits of information every month on my external drive, but also a copy of it on my flash drive. For the remaining items, its not that relevant if they are gone. I do keep them on DVDs also just in case. But it seems that most people don’t care about backup these days… I still remember recovering items, for a friend, from a worn-out flash drive that reached its end of life. It was really stressful and the friend had only regrets to show. Same goes for medias and photos. I’ve tried to recover photos from crashed hard drive for many people, but in the end its a lost battle.
Better prevent than regret…

0 votes

Lisa Santika Onggrid

CTRL+S is indeed my best friend. I’ve learnt the hard way. For extra layer of insurance, use personal Keylogger or clipboard extender (copy everything you’ve typed before you do anything to the finished product) so you’ll always have the content available even if the document is corrupted.
As for backup, I use CD/DVD for archives and files that won’t be updated frequently.

0 votes

Melroy D’monte

Backup to external hard drive and then zip, password protect and throw it on the cloud. All done.

0 votes

Sri Vastav Reddy

Nice images..
can i use them for ppt’s :)

0 votes

Edward Bellair

Sadly most people dont think about the loss until they lose everything.

0 votes

David Ream

We can’t be reminded too often of the need for computer backup. Thanks for a very good article. I recently bought an external hard drive. It arrived in the mail Friday. I did my first backup Saturday. The computer failed Monday! It was a permanent failure and the techs could recover nothing from the hard drive. You can appreciate how grateful I was for a current backup to load onto my replacement computer!

0 votes

GF

I do backups to a second inner hard-disk but I fear someone steals my PC, therefore I am planning to use also a flash drive (an USB pendrive). Its extreme small size makes it very handy to carry with us when we leave home.

0 votes

GF

I inform you there is another Cloud method, a Cloud between friends:
http://www.buddybackup.com

Perhaps even this website could be interesting:
http://www.zezebra.com [Editor's note: questionable WOT rating]

Please note I haven’t tried those two methods. I don’t know how they work.

0 votes

jin

I tried todo backup but it didn’t work. Could you please tell me some free good backup software?

0 votes

Sharon Gorohoff

What do you think of the program ACRONIS ? I have a friend that swears by it.

0 votes

Bernardo Delapasion

cry just cry and more crying still more crying

0 votes

Brenden Barlow

awesome tips, i really should look into using some of them…