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Computer Backups – Can You Do Without?

In this article we discuss the merits of backing up your computer regularly and what system should you use?

Why should I backup?

Have you ever had that sick feeling when you realise that the file you’ve just permanently deleted was in fact that treasured photo of your child? Have you turned your computer on in the morning and nothing has happened – just a black screen and the PC unit whirring away?

If so, you’ll know how frustrating it can be to try and recover your data (files, photos, spreadsheets, etc.) if you don’t have a current backup.

Sure, there are companies out there that offer data recovery services but they can be very expensive.

What can I do?

There are three options:

  1. Backup your files to another hard drive connected to your computer using third-party backup software. This is called a local or on-site backup
  2. Backup your files to a cloud backup provider using your internet connection and a subscription to a cloud service. This is called a remote, off-premise or cloud backup. You may also hear the term “disaster recovery” backup.
  3. Do nothing and lose all your valuable data when your PC fails

I’ll discuss the top two items. You don’t want to consider option 3.

Local or On-Site Backups

A local or on-site backup is where you buy an external hard drive from somewhere like Currys / PC World or Amazon, connect it to your computer and then use a third-party piece of software to back up all your valuable data.

The back up software usually allows you to choose what you want backing up and when. It’ll take you through a wizard to help you set up in the best way for your needs. Once you’ve completed this, you just click the go button and the software will do the rest. We call this fire and forget in the IT industry.

Ideally you’d want to back up on at least a weekly basis but if you’re running a business from home or make lots of changes to your data then daily may be more suitable.

Most backup programmes allow you to keep a certain number of previous backups ie 2 weeks worth, just in case you want to recover a different version of a document or you installed something that broke your PC.

The only problem with this type of backup is that if the external hard drive fails or gets damaged, then you could potentially still lose all your data.

Your recovery chances are as only as reliable as your last good backup. If you don’t have the hard drive with recoverable data, then you still won’t be able to get the files back.

This brings me on to the second option

Remote, Off-Site or Cloud backups

Remote backups to the cloud have become increasing popular over the past few years due to increasing Internet / Broadband speeds at home / workplace.

Previously, unless you had a lightening fast internet connection, remote backups were something only for large businesses with ultra-quick Internet connections.

Now, thankfully, most people have access to fibre connections which opens up the option to backup your computer data remotely.

How does it work?

Firstly, you sign up for a subscription to a cloud backup service provider. This will involve a small monthly / annual fee but they usually offer a 7 or 14 day free trial to allow you to try out their platform.

You then download their backup software and install it on your PC.

You select the files / folders you want to back up to the cloud and then just leave the software to work its magic.

The initial backup can take days or even weeks to complete. It all depends on the amount of data you want backing up and the speed of your connection.

Once the initial backup has been completed then only changes to the files will be copied up, therefore making it much quicker.

The beauty of this is two-fold

  1. Your data is continuously being backed up, so will always have the latest copies available
  2. The data is being stored in a remote location. This means that whatever happens at home / in the office, your data is always safe in the cloud. You can access it from literally anywhere as long as you have an internet connection.

Is it safe / secure

As long as you choose one of the more reputable companies then your data will be secure. It’s encrypted whilst being sent to the remote site and is also encrypted when it’s stored. This means only you can actually see the content as you have to create a username and password to access the data.

So, which should I choose?

Well, it all depends on your requirements.

Onsite / Local

If you’re happy with storing data on another drive at home and are prepared to check that the backups have worked correctly and the data is intact, then the on-site or local backup option would suffice.

Pros:

  • One off purchase for the software and hard drive – typically around £100-£150 in total.
  • Faster backups as no Internet connection required
  • Still works if your Internet is down

Cons:

  • You lose all your backup data if the hard drive fails
  • You need to check the back up has completed and the data is accessible
  • Unable to access the data from any location

Remote / Off-site / Cloud Backup

If you want that extra level of protection and the knowledge that your data is backed up in a secure location and is accessible from anywhere, then the cloud backup option is best.

Pros:

  • Your data is backed up at an off-site location and no matter what happens at your home / office, you will be able to recover the data
  • Data is fully encrypted and is only readable by you
  • It’s not your responsibilty to ensure the data is not corrupted or the equipment is not working.

Cons:

  • Can be more expensive as you have to pay a monthly / annual subscription.
  • The intial backup can be very slow, sometimes weeks

The ultimate solution is to have both.

Personally I take a local backup of my files on a daily basis but also allow them to copy up to the cloud in the background. I then know I’m covered across all angles.

What do I recommend?

There are plenty of review websites out there that will discuss the benefits of local and cloud backup software / services.

Local Backup

At the Computageeks office I use EASEUS ToDo Backup Home for my local backups. I find this a very intuitive and reliable tool and it allows for great flexibility when setting schedules and backups, etc.

I use the Seagate 6Tb USB 3.0 External Hard Drive for my backups as it’s very reliable and fast. With 6Tb of space, you’ll never run out of backup space!

Remote Backup

For my remote backup, I use BackBlaze. You can find out more about their products here and by clicking on the link, they will offer you a free trial of their software.

I hope I’ve helped explain why you need to backup your data and what options are available. If you have any further questions, drop me a line at help@computageeks.co.uk or call the office on 01245 526528.

Cheers