Backing Up Files

Backing Up Files. Why – And How to Backup

A Simple Guide to Backing up your Videos, Photos, Music and Documents.


Making backups of your files is a chore you probably skip, but if you want to avoid losing irreplaceable photos, videos and files then it's something you need to take seriously. Whether you’re a home user, or business, making regular backups are important.

Making backups of your files is a chore, or it can be if you don't have a proper backup strategy in place. We're all guilty of failing to make regular backups, and for good reason: it isn't simple. Photos, music, videos, documents and more are scattered across our laptops, PCs, external hard drives as well as on phones, tablets and online. Here we'll explain the various options for backing up not only your files, but also your whole PC or laptop so that if your hard drive fails, you can restore it back just the way it was.


There are 3 methods regarding backing up.


1. Backup to an external hard drive or DVD/Blu-ray Drive

This is by far the easiest way of backing up your files. You can attach a large external hard drive or USB drive then just use Windows Explorer to copy and paste the files over from your computer or laptop to the external device. It's completely manual, but you can download backup software to make the process automatic. Some external hard drives come with backup software, too.

A standard drive won't cost much, but it won't do anything but sit there and let you do all the work (and at least that way you know what is getting copied over). Adding encryption and fast connections like USB 3.0 or Thunderbolt make a difference.

Now you can buy solid-state drives (SSD). Unlike hard disk drives, SSDs have no moving parts and that means fantastic performance—which is always a plus when you've got a lot of data to copy. Downside to an SSD? They're still overly expensive.


NAS Drives

NAS can do a lot more than back up a few files. Many can back up multiple computers in a home or office. Streaming media from a NAS to a device like a game console or phone is becoming common place. More and more share files across the network and out to the Internet, making it a Web server as well. Most NAS boxes feature FTP, online remote access, security controls, and different RAID configurations to determine how drives store your data (redundantly or spread across drives). Some even have multiple Ethernet, Wi-Fi, and USB ports.


CDs/DVDs/Blu-Ray Discs

The old stand-by for backup is to copy your files to a shiny disc. The downsides are capacity and speed. CD-Recordable (CD-Rs) can only hold so much data (around 700MB, maximum). A DVD-R is much better at 4.7GB, but even 8.5GB dual-layer DVD-R discs won't hold your entire music and photo collection. Dual-layer Blu-ray discs (BD-Rs) store up to 50GB and the prices have dropped. However, even at that capacity, backing up to discs can be slow when compared with fast hard drives and flash drives.

It's a good idea to keep a backup of your data off-site, if possible. If a disaster takes out your computers and storage, it's likely that your backups are gone as well, but it won't get what's not there. And a CD is about as easy as it gets to take with you and store in another location.


2. Backup to the Cloud

Backing up to the Cloud basically means storing your videos, photos, music and documents online. Quite a few people will be wary of this due to the fact of the amount of serious hacks to big companies in the media and personal details stolen, and who knows who can access your so-called secure data. Another downside of this method is it will only works if you have regular access to enough upstream bandwidth to handle all your essential data. If your broadband is slow it will not be viable. Add to that it is a paid-for service it could be better to store it all at home.

Dropbox, OneDrive, Google Drive and many other online storage services make it supremely easy to make backups of your files, and the free storage on offer when you sign up may just be enough for you. If it isn't you can pay a reasonable monthly or yearly fee to get a lot more storage. Just bear in mind that most cloud storage services sync files in a certain folder on your computer. This means if you delete a file in that folder, it will disappear from your online storage as well. Many services have an undelete feature (like a Recycle bin) so you can undo your mistake, but this might be limited to 30 days, so check!

A real benefit of cloud storage is that it creates a copy of your files in a physically separate location. They're safe from flood, fire and theft. Cloud storage has lots of other advantages too: you can access the files from practically any computer with an internet connection and you can keep files in sync across multiple devices.


3. A full Windows PC or laptop backup (Disk Image)

The first two methods mentioned above only back up certain files and folders, but they are not sufficient to get your PC or laptop back to full working order if your hard drive (or SSD) fails, or your computer is stolen. A full back up of your PC or laptop is known as a 'disk image' or 'ghost image'. This is an exact copy or your hard drive or Solid State Drive.

You do need special software for making a 'disk image' or 'ghost image' and there are free and paid for versions. An example of this software is Acronis True Image which is the most popular paid-for package.

Make an image of the drive. An image is a replica of all of your data—every file and folder, even the programs and system files—taken like a snapshot in time of the drive at a given moment. When used for restoration, it would overwrite what exists and the hard drive would revert to the state it was in at the time of backup. Imaging is an especially perfect way to back up a brand new computer. Then, in a couple of years when it starts acting wonky (don't kid yourself, it happens to all computers) you can revert the drive back to its original settings.


What to back up

Before you can know how you should best back up, you must know what you need to back up. The choice is ultimately yours, but I recommend protecting anything you might want or require later that you can’t re-create: electronic documents (tax stuff, business stuff, any hard copies you’ve scanned and discarded), artistic creations, memorabilia (photos, videos, your old band recordings), or pretty much anything whose loss would evoke extreme negative emotions. Note that If your data is spread over multiple devices, you’ll need to consolidate it.

It is especially convenient to have a complete backup of your desktop or laptop (ideally with your mobile-device data on board).


Final Word.

You must have three copies of your important data: the original, a backup of the original, and a backup of the backup. The secondary and tertiary copies should be in different locations: Ideally, keep one on premises (local) for swift restores and recovery, and keep one off-site where it isn’t subject to the same physical threats (lightning, flood, theft, and the like).


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