The Many Ways to Back Up Your Files
There are many ways to back up your data, from using an external drive to backing up those files on a remote server over the Internet. Here are the strengths and weaknesses of each:
- Back Up to an External Drive: If you have an external USB hard drive, you can just back up to that drive using your computer’s built-in backup features. On Windows 10 and 8, use File History. On Windows 7, use Windows Backup. On Macs, use Time Machine. Occasionally connect the drive to the computer and use the backup tool, or leave it plugged in whenever your home and it’ll back up automatically. Pros: Backing up is cheap and fast. Cons: If your house gets robbed or catches on fire, your backup can be lost along with your computer, which is very bad.
- Back Up Over the Internet: If you want to ensure your files stay safe, you can back them up to the internet with a service like BackBlaze. BackBlaze is the well-known online backup service we like and recommend since CrashPlan no longer serves home users, but there are also competitors like Carbonite and MozyHome. For a low monthly fee (about $5 a month), these programs run in the background on your PC or Mac, automatically backing up your files to the service’s web storage. If you ever lose those files and need them again, you can restore them. Pros: Online backup protects you against any type of data loss–hard drive failure, theft, natural disasters, and everything in between. Cons: These services usually cost money (see the next section for more details), and the initial backup can take much longer than it would on an external drive–especially if you have a lot of files.
- Use a Cloud Storage Service: Backup purists will say this isn’t technically a backup method, but for most people, it serves a similar enough purpose. Rather than just storing your files on your computer’s hard drive, you can store them on a service like Dropbox, Google Drive, Microsoft OneDrive, or a similar cloud storage service. They’ll then automatically sync to your online account and to your other PCs. If your hard drive dies, you’ll still have the copies of the files stored online and on your other computers. Pros: This method is easy, fast, and in many cases, free, and since it’s online, it protects you against all types of data loss. Cons: Most cloud services only offer a few gigabytes of space for free, so this only works if you have a small number of files you want to back up, or if you’re willing to pay for extra storage. Depending on the files you want to back up, this method can either be simpler or more complicated than a straight-up backup program.