How to back up your computer

When customers call us with a computer crisis, their number one fear isn’t for their equipment.

It’s for the irreplaceable photos, writings, music and videos, projects, passwords and memories stored inside.

Peace of mind is easy to find, though! Here are the backup solutions we recommend to ensure you never lose your valuable data to malware, hard drive failures or disasters.


1) External hardware

PROS: Many people save data to an external hard drive, thumb drive, CD or second computer. This is a fairly simple and affordable process. Automated software can conduct backups on a daily or weekly basis, eliminating the need to backup each item you value and update the backup every time a file changes.

CONS: It’s the least reliable protection. It’s easy for malware to make the jump from one drive to another, and if the original computer is damaged by fire or flooding, any backups in the same building will likely be affected, too.


2) Cloning and imaging

PROS: Both cloning and imaging copy all the data, programs, settings, and even the operating system from one hard drive to another. If a virus or faulty upgrade makes a computer unusable, you can boot up the most recent image and be back to business as usual.

CONS: Imaging is recommended on a monthly basis, so a separate daily or weekly backup of fresh file data is still needed. If the image is stored at the same physical location, it’s as vulnerable as the external hardware above. And you’ll need to buy software and an external drive large enough to conduct imaging, or contact an IT specialist.


3) Online storage

PROS: This is the Internet’s version of an external hard drive, and it’s likely the most affordable, since so many free and low-cost options exist (Microsoft’s OneDrive, Google Drive, DropBox).

CONS: Like external hardware, online storage is a manual process requiring daily updates. And the more you store, the more you’re likely to have to pay.


4) Online backup

PROS: The simplest way to keep your data safe and up-to-date is to use an online backup system (Carbonite, BackBlaze, SOS Online Backup). These operate constantly in the background, uploading copies of the contents of every folder you select when the software is installed. Not only are your photos and writings protected if the computer is damaged, most online backup companies give you “cloud” access to your files from any device with their software – just log in and open up the file you’re looking for. They also make it easy to transfer your data to any new computer you acquire.

CONS: The first upload and any full-content downloads can take multiple days, so if speed is a factor, an external drive may be your best choice. The services also have a higher price point than other solutions, running from $3 to $30 per month.


For absolute data security, combine two or three of the above solutions. We’re always happy to help.