No! 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.
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
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
- Portable and desktop versions.
- Tangible and simple.
- Relatively affordable.
- Have potential to fail.
- Limited by space on drive.
- Vulnerable to theft or physical destruction.
- Very portable.
- Tangible and simple.
- Price per gigabyte typically more than hard drives.
- Vulnerable to theft or physical destruction.
- Don’t have large amounts space.
- 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).
- Reliant upon a stable Internet connection.
- Pricing (after free storage is filled) significantly more than other options.
- Vulnerable to hacking.
Physical Media (CDs/DVDs)
- Potentially inexpensive disks.
- Storage expandable through purchasing more.
- Most secure if stored in a safe.
- 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 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. 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:
- Kill your Internet connection.
- Try to remove it with your antivirus/anti-malware program.
- Boot in safe mode.
- Refer to online sources.
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.