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Digital formats are a brilliant innovation let down by one fatal flaw: If anything bad happens – be it theft, failure, or natural disaster – to the physical object housing the data, then a lifetime of work (or more likely your whole music and movie collections) can literally be lost forever.

This is why backing up your digital data is so important. Computers, tablets, smartphones, personal media players etc. can all be wiped out, damaged, or lost in an instant. Having no backup means anything you have stored on that device is gone. This prompted the question in last week’s We Ask You querying your methods for preventing that possibly cataclysmic loss happening to you.

How, & How Often, Do You Back Up Your Files?

We asked you, How, & How Often, Do You Back Up Your Files? How & How Often Do You Back Up Your Files? [We Ask You] How & How Often Do You Back Up Your Files? [We Ask You] If you own any kind of digital device - from desktop to laptop, tablet to phone, and more besides - it's important to back up your files on a regular basis. How regular is up... Read More The response was good, with dozens of you informing us how often you back your data up and what methods you choose for doing so. The good news is that the vast majority of those who responded realize the importance of backing their data up regularly. Hopefully those who don’t will be cajoled into doing so by this discussion as well as Ryan’s previous rundown of horror stories regarding lost data These Guys Didn't Back Up Their Files, Now Look What Happened These Guys Didn't Back Up Their Files, Now Look What Happened If there is anything I learned during those early years of working with computers (and the people that use them), it was how critical it is to not only save important stuff, but also to... Read More .

The MakeUseOf readership employs all manner of different methods. This includes physical backups to external hard drives, home servers, USB flash drives, and DVDs/CDs. Software or cloud solutions mentioned includes Time Machine, Dropbox, Carbonite, CrashPlan, Norton GoBack, Static Backup8, Clonezilla, Syncplicity, and Skydrive.

Some of these are free, most are not. Just because they’re mentioned here does not mean we necessarily recommend them, so do your research before signing up for any of the paid options.

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One thing I would say is to prioritize your files. Think about those you would be devastated to lose and couldn’t be recovered, those which would be a pain but not the end of the world to lose, and those that don’t actually matter in the big scheme of things. Don’t take any chances with the first group – multiple backups in more than one location, the middle group just needs regular backing up, while the third can be backed up less often.

Comment Of The Week

Phil Davis and John-Charles Quinn both made great contributions this week (sadly neither are registered users). However, comment of the week goes to Ellen Odza, who won with this comment:

I have a LOT of stuff on my computer and consider regular backups essential (unlike various friends who think I’m paranoid – or they USED to think that until their computers crashed and they lost all their files!)

I used to use an external HD for backing up my files but realized that this method only protected me against an internal HD failure. If someone stole my computer, they’d almost certainly take the external HD as well. If the house caught fire or something, the HD would be destroyed along with the desktop. I also tried burning data to CDs, or using zip or jaz disks (we are going back aren’t we!) – the idea was that I’d have one set of backup disks offsite and a second one at home, and I’d update the home ones regularly and swap them with the offsite ones every week. That of course did not last long – too much effort. Then I began researching off site backups and found Carbonite, which is what I currently use.

I chose Carbonite because (a) it runs in the background automatically, so I don’t have to remember to run backups and (b) there is no limit on the amount of material I can back up for one flat fee (and since we are talking hundreds of GB, that’s very economical for me).

I also have my research data (I’m a univ professor and research) on a flash drive that I carry around with me. Any data sets that are used in collaborative research, my research partners have copies of as well – we love redundancy, especially when you are talking about 20+ years of longitudinal data that would be virtually impossible to recreate!

Ellen clearly has data that cannot be lost under any circumstances, so she and her research partners take the necessary steps to avoid that happening. This reminds us of the need to use multiple approaches What Is The Best Backup Solution? [Geeks Weigh In] What Is The Best Backup Solution? [Geeks Weigh In] Ten years ago an external hard drive – or even a physical disc such as a CD-ROM – was the only practical way to back up files. Consumer-grade network storage solutions were primitive, expensive and... Read More , especially for the most important data that would be impossible to recover or recreate without ensuring a backup is in place beforehand.

We will be asking a new question tomorrow, so please join us then. We Ask You is a weekly column dedicated to finding out the opinions of MakeUseOf readers. We ask you a question and you tell us what you think. The question is open-ended and is usually open to debate. Some questions will be purely opinion-based, while others will see you sharing tips and advice, or advocating tools and apps for your fellow MakeUseOf X Seldom-known Awesome Tools To Optimize Windows X Seldom-known Awesome Tools To Optimize Windows Read More readers. This column is nothing without your input, all of which is valued.

Image Credit: Stuart Pilbrow

  1. Sumaiya
    September 5, 2012 at 6:27 pm

    i just copy my stuff onto another harddrive..i never used the backup facility..i think i should start though..

  2. Todd Evans
    September 3, 2012 at 8:56 pm

    I like to use Backblaze. It's $5 a month for unlimited storage. It runs in the background like most online backup services. Accessing your data is easy as well. You can download individual files, folders or drives in zip format for free. They can also send you your data on a USB device or a hard drive for a fee. I really like it because of the price and unlimited storage capability. They explain on their site how they are able to provide that and why the price will NEVER go up!

  3. mimoza
    August 30, 2012 at 2:12 pm

    For firefox i use batckup firefox 3.0 by batchapp

  4. blivitlurad
    August 30, 2012 at 7:49 am

    I do backups all the time using Crashplan. It's easy and I don't have to think about backups. It's all done in the background

  5. Tom Bogan
    August 30, 2012 at 7:00 am

    With my photos, I have 3 backups and this is done on a daily basis. Online, External drive and DVD.

  6. susendeep dutta
    August 29, 2012 at 2:27 pm

    Not all can have multiple backup facility.They need to have high bandwidth usage plans as well as good speeds to work with which I think only Japan,South Korea and European countries possess.This is such thing that people can't buy with even loads of money.

    • Dave Parrack
      August 29, 2012 at 2:31 pm

      Multiple backups can include an external harddrive, USB flash drives, and DVDs. None of which need broadband connections.

      • GrrGrrr
        August 29, 2012 at 4:42 pm

        but they all add to the cost, which is huge in developing countries.

        • Rebecca
          August 29, 2012 at 8:40 pm

          And what if the place you pay to back up your data lose their data capabilities ,then what?

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