You probably keep most of your files on your computer—your photos, documents, and other data. But what happens if your computer is stolen or destroyed? What if your hard drive just suddenly stops working? How do you get access to all those important files again?
The solution to all of these questions is simple — backups! If you’re wondering about what you’ll need in a data backup strategy as well as what the best backup options are, look no further, and read on! This article covers all of these topics, including five of the best options that we’ve found for backing up your files.
Why Are Backups So Important?
A backup is a copy of your data that you can use if the original is lost or damaged. You might need to restore your backup when:
- Your (or an app) computer crashes and your files get corrupted
- You’re using a laptop and it gets stolen
- Some natural disaster (e.g., a hurricane, flood, or earthquake) occurs and destroys your computer
- You accidentally delete an important file
- A ransomware attack causes your files to become inaccessible
All of these issues are easily solved by having backups in place. Imagine living worry-free about your files and data—that’s what having backups are like!
What Do I Need in a Data Backup Strategy?
If you’re running a business, you should have a data backup strategy in place. Regardless of how small or large your business is, you’ll need a strategy to quickly recover your data and get your organization back up and running.
There are multiple factors to consider when creating a data backup strategy—let’s go through the most important ones:
First, a risk assessment should be conducted. This helps you determine the risks that your business may be vulnerable to, and organize your company’s defenses and backups against specific threats.
Second, a business impact analysis should be performed, as it is closely related to a risk assessment. Once a risk assessment identifies the risks, a business impact analysis determines how they can negatively affect your business’s operations.
Next, you should determine the data that should be included in the backup. For example, random notes about where the next company outing should be aren’t exactly a priority when backing up files; however, databases of clients, deadlines, and projects or company financials are extremely critical data that should be prioritized when it comes to security and backups.
Then, you should organize the frequency of your backups (i.e., how often you should back up). Potential business disruptions should be factored into determining when you conduct backups, ensuring that any downtime during the backup process is minimized.
Finally, the process for backing up your business files should be established and refined: the backup programs to be used, who’s performing the backup, and where the backup will be stored should all be included in your strategy.
Follow the 3-2-1 Backup Rule
If you’ve been researching backup strategies, you may have heard of the 3-2-1 backup rule.
Basically, the 3-2-1 backup rule is a simple way to ensure that your data is safe in case of an emergency. It means having:
At least three copies of your data…
…stored on at least two different media types (e.g., hard drive and cloud)…
…with one copy off-site.
This rule is basically the minimum standard for an organization’s backup plan, and it’s a good place to start formulating your business’s own data backup strategy.
It ensures that you have multiple copies of your data so that if a backup option fails, you’ll still have an additional backup option to fall back on.
What’s more, having an off-site copy ensures that if there are any issues with your on-site backups (e.g., they get hacked or stolen, or a sudden flood wrecks your computers), you’ll always have an additional backup option at the ready.
5 Backup Options to Secure Your Files
Now that you know the basics about backups, let’s talk about how to do it. There are many ways to back up your files, and here are five of the best ones that we’ve found:
1. On-site backups
On-site backups refer to those that you store locally, such as another hard drive or server on your local network. If your local copy of a file gets corrupted or deleted, you can very easily access their on-site backups as you are (sometimes literally) in the same building.
2. Off-site backups
Off-site backups, on the other hand, refer to the backups that you have outside of your location. For example, you could have a USB stick at home that contains backups of your work files.
3. Removable media
Removable media is another method for backing up your files, which includes CDs and DVDs, USB drives, and portable hard drives. This option, simply put, involves copying your files over to these forms of media and then storing them on-site, off-site, or both.
Intermission: Scheduling your backups
You may be wondering, given all of these options, how often should you back up your files? As always, the answer is it depends.
Consider how often your files are edited or deleted. Do you have a spreadsheet that you work on daily? What files do you open every week? Does your work focus on files that you work on for a day or two and then never see again?
Based on your answers to these questions, you should be able to figure out how often you’ll need to back up your files. If every day is essential to your work, then consider daily backups (or perhaps even multiple times on the same day). But if your work is a bit more relaxed, weekly or monthly options are also available.
However, one thing’s for certain: manually backing up your files every day (or even every week) is a bit of a drag. You can sometimes forget to back your files up after a tiring day at work, or you could just get distracted with a weekend family trip and just forget to back up.
Luckily, this is where our next two options come in:
4. Backup software
Backup software fundamentally helps the process of backing up by automating the majority of tasks. For example, programs like Macrium Reflect or BackUp Maker allow you to specify which files and folders you’d like to back up, where you’d like to store them, and how often you’d like to back them up—and all of this is automatically done.
Using such software, you’ll never have to manually back up any of your files ever again, ensuring that you’ll always have backups of your files at the ready.
5. Cloud backups
Finally, cloud backups utilize the power of the cloud to store backups of your file. The cloud allows you to store your data on servers that are located outside of your home or office, which means that if anything happens to the devices in the aforementioned places, your files won’t be affected.
Cloud storage also gives you access from anywhere: you can download your backups from any device with an Internet connection (like a smartphone).
What’s more, cloud-based backup services allow you to upload large amounts of information without overloading your own computers’ hard drives (or even needing to buy things like servers and the space for them), enabling you to save up a lot on hardware costs.
Most cloud storage services also offer encryption and other security measures designed specifically for protecting sensitive information (e.g., your company’s financial records or your own personal files) in case a hack or malware attack happens.
Plus, some cloud storage providers even offer the option for automatic backups, allowing you to save up on any backup software-related expenses, as they effectively combine two backup solutions into one!
With all of these great benefits, you may be wondering where to start. Don’t worry—here are our top recommendations for the best cloud storage providers!
Any backup strategy is better than none!
Given all of these options, you may have a hard time picking one that suits you or your organization’s needs. Luckily, you don’t have to pick just one! You can mix different backups as needed, as outlined in the 3-2-1 strategy. Having multiple, redundant backups ensures that you’ll always have a backup ready regardless of what happens.
For example, on-site backups are vulnerable to things like a robbery or a natural disaster. However, if you have backups on a cloud server, they’ll be kept safe from any of these events, ensuring that any downtime is limited and that you’ll be able to get back up and running as soon as possible!
Back It Up!
Backing up files is an extremely important aspect of today’s hyperconnected, digital world and its myriad of threats. Fortunately, there are plenty of options for safely and securely storing your precious data.
Remember to weigh your options carefully—be it a simple USB stick that you copy old files to or a sophisticated cloud- and software-based storage solution. Whatever option works best for your needs, know that they all have their pros and cons—so choose wisely!