Your data is very precious and should be backed up. With this plan it’s as easy to make sure your data is safe - as easy as 1-2-3. This is my 1-2-3 data backup plan. But it’s not just for your computer, it’s also for your phone.
Think about how critical the data is on your phone. It’s got your favorite people, probably a lot of great pictures and maybe other information that would be bad if you lost it. I constantly read on Facebook that people have a new phone and don’t have any of their contacts any longer. This shouldn’t happen.
The 1-2-3 backup plan
This plan will help you keep your data safe and ready for you no matter what happens. And if something happens - like you bought a new phone - it won’t matter. Recently my wife had some battery issues with her iPhone after almost 3 years of use. When we went to see the Genius Bar, it was no issue that they wiped and restored the phone from scratch. We simply logged into the appropriate account and the phone restored itself. Easy.
This should be true of your computer as well. And the data on your computer is also critical. There should never be a circumstance where you “lose everything” and you’re just out of luck.
A few points - you don’t have to back up everything. Things like applications, the operating system and other similar items can just be restored either from cloud-based app stores (the Apple App Store, the Google Play store or the CDs you got with your computer) so don’t waste back-up efforts on these. Plus, in the worst case, it’s always best to start fresh anyway with the operating system and applications.
There’s one more thing. All of your backups should be absolutely automatic. If there is any interaction needed on your part what will happen is that the data that is most critical won’t get backed up at the most critical time because you’ll be busy. There should be no interaction on your part to back up your stuff. So, here with go with Tony’s 1-2-3 backup plan.
1 - One copy off-site
One of the copies of your stuff should not be where your stuff usually is - in other words it should be off site. There are a lot of ways of doing this automatically. I love tools like Carbonite which look at your hard drive and send the stuff you work on to a server off site. Their backup service is totally automatic and works with both Mac and Windows plus the data is encrypted.
If you're on a mobile device you should subscribe to that device’s cloud backup service. In the case of the iPhone and iPad, make sure you’re signed into and backing up to your iCloud account. If you're using Android make sure you’re signed in to your Google account and, for goodness sakes, make sure you're using Google’s photo backup feature.
For IOS, which is what I’m familiar with, we also make sure that our photos are on the iCloud service so that they automatically get backed-up the moment we take them. The side benefit of this is that, with our Mac computers, we also get almost immediate access to photos taken with our phones and iPad. The convenience alone makes it worth having a paid iCloud account but the peace of mind seals the deal.
Also, if my wife takes a photo with her phone I can use it on my computer or see it on my phone. This is great for our travel blog where we share images all the time.
Apple’s iCloud is free up to 50GB which is quite a large amount. We’re at the point where we’re paying $2.99 for 200GB of data. Knowing our music, photos, contacts and more are safe are worth $3 a month.
2 - Two different devices
Your backup has to be on at least two different devices. While I love cloud-based backup services as mentioned previously I also keep a local backup. On the Mac I use a tool called Chronosync to keep all devices current. This tool is set to automatically check the source and make copies of the files to the other devices twice a day. In the worst case I only lose half a day’s worth of work. There are comparable tools for Windows that are synchronization tools including Microsoft’s own SyncToy - a silly name for a great free tool.
In my case I copy to both an external hard drive attached to my computer as well as a network attached drive in another part of the building.
My reasoning for this is that if a burglar comes in and sees the computer (s)he will likely take that and the hard drive next to it. But they’re not likely to break into the network closet, which is locked, and steal that hard drive as well.
While cloud-based backups are a good thing to have remember that it will take a long time to download your backups from the cloud. Having local backups is also part of the plan. However if there’s ever a fire in your home or office, local backups will be long gone so the cloud-based backups are a great way to keep things off-site.
I also know of some folks who make copies of their data periodically onto a portable hard drive and take that drive to a safe place. While this is also a good idea remember that my 1-2-3 backup plan has to be fully automatic and require no interaction on your part once it’s set up.
3 - Three copies of your stuff
You should have three copies of your stuff in two distinct locations, period. There’s the copy on your computer’s internal hard drive, there’s the copy on the backup drive that we talked about above and then a third copy off site such as in “the cloud.”
A political statement
While I try to be apolitical here about various operating systems and such, in this case I think Apple users have a huge advantage here. Using iCloud, a Mac and an iPhone all your critical data such as contacts, email, photos, calendar and more are completely and automatically backed up with no interaction by the user. The system works seamlessly and automatically. If you have a tech issue, Apples Geniuses are there to help.
I know Windows and Android users all will complain that they can back up things as well, which is true, but syncing contacts on the computer with those on the phone isn’t nearly as easy and seamless as it is with Apple’s products. Unless you’re good with software you probably don’t have the two devices in sync. I hope I’m wrong.
Also Apple’s iCloud doesn’t back up things you’ve created with products like Photoshop and other local applications. So don’t feel too comfortable that you're safe and sound unless you’ve taken steps to make sure your data is backed up. All of your data.
I do like that Microsoft’s Office products offer the ability to store items “in the cloud” with Office 365. That’s a plus - the documents are local and in the cloud. I also have the same feature with Apple’s iWork suite which uses iCloud for backup if you choose to. But I also have 3TB of data that I’ve created with PhotoShop, iMovie, Filemaker and other applications that I need to keep in multiple secure places so I use my own advice to make sure I don’t have to re-create my work.
Once your automatic backups are in place you can rest assured that you won’t be recreating your work. The peace of mind that comes when you just slide your saved files back into place is incredible.
For a business having critical data off site and properly backed up might mean the difference between a day of inconvenience and a visit from the bankruptcy attorney. All our digital wonders are great tools that we rely on all the time but they will inevitably fail us at some point and it’s good to know that we’re ahead of the game. It’s not a matter of if your hard drive will crash - it’s only a matter of when.