Why do you need to back up your computer?

Because of rapid changes in technology, storage is becoming cheap. You would normally say that it is a good thing. However, the increased capacity results in more and more of your personal and business data being stored in a single device. This brings with it the inherent risks of storing data in one place - accidental deletion, theft, ransomware, and hard disk crash (which is a more common occurrence: every week 140,000 hard disks crash in the United States). Hence, the main purpose of a backup is to ensure that your data survives in case of eventualities.


How many backups do I need?


It is advisable to follow the industry best practice, which is known as the 3-2-1 strategy. It is simple to understand - you need 3 copies of your data, 2 on different storage media, and 1 located off-site. This strategy safeguards your data against a broad spectrum of hazards such as accidental deletion, ransomware, natural disaster, as well as storage device failure. Storing your data on multiple media and locations ensures that there isn’t any single failure point. Even if there is device failure on one of the storage media, you will still be able to recover your data from another storage media. Further, storing a copy of your data onsite gives you the required recovery speed in case of failure. While having a copy offsite gives you added security in case of natural disaster or loss of location.

This is a widely used strategy and is even recommended by US-CERT (United States Computer Emergency Readiness Team) in their Data Backup Options publication.


What types of backup solutions are available?

This is a critical question and one that requires a fair amount of contemplation.  

1. Cloud backup

When we say your data is stored on the cloud, it is in fact stored in secure, high-storage-capacity remote servers with high-speed connections to the internet. Once stored on these servers, your data can be accessed from anywhere and in case a file is mistakenly deleted or your hard drive crashes, it can be restored from anywhere. We have evaluated 5 cloud backup solutions in our previous blog: 5 Best Cloud Backup Solutions for Small Business.

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2. Clone

A clone, popularly known as a bootable backup is a quick way to get your system back in working order. A bootable backup is an exact copy of your boot drive, i.e. your computer’s primary drive. So if your hard drive crashes, you can simply plug in your clone and reboot your system from it. This way you will have access to all your software, settings and files as they were when the clone was created or updated. This is very handy when there is a deadline looming and you do not have the time to replace your crashed/corrupted boot drive.

Creating a clone is a useful backup solution; however, it has its shortfalls. Firstly, it needs to be updated frequently to keep it current - once a week, once a day. Doing this manually isn’t ideal. Secondly, running your computer from an external drive slows it down. Therefore, this should only be a short-term solution.

3. External drive

Using an external drive for backup is different from having a clone. First of all, it is not a bootable drive, second, it is not an image of your computer at a point of time, rather this form of backup is incremental in nature. This type of backup is used to create an archive of your files. Rather than your entire system, usually selected folders are backed up. If your computer crashes, you can simply plug your external drive to a new system and gain access to all of your files and folders that you had backed up. Files that you may have accidentally deleted or edited can also be restored using the external drive.


In the following sections, we will look at the step-by-step backup process for Windows 10 and Mac.

How to back up your Windows 10 Computer

  • Connect your external drive to your computer

  • Click Start Menu > Settings > Update and Security > Backup

  • Click Add a drive then select your external drive from the list.

  • You can click More options if you want to change the settings, add or exclude folders. All the folders within the User folder are backed up by default.

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The default/preselected options are fine for most people so you can let them be. A couple of useful tips are: increase the frequency of backup if you make lot of changes to your files daily, and if your file sizes are large, consider how long you want to keep the backed up files so that you do not run out of storage space. The backup will happen automatically so you won’t have to worry about it anymore.


How to back up your mac

  • Connect your external drive to your Mac.

  • When the external drive is plugged in, your Mac should ask if you want to use the drive as a backup disk. Click Use as Backup Disk. If this prompt doesn’t appear, go to System Preferences > Time Machine and set the backup disk from there.

  • Click Select Backup Disk from preferences and choose your external drive.


That’s all you need to do. It can take some time for the system to perform its first backup. You need to let your Mac on until it completes the first backup. After that, the backups are done in the background.

When everything is going well, we feel invincible and often ignore even the basic security measures. We take care of our laptops, and PCs well and we never think that it can happen to us until it actually does. Getting caught without a backup when setting one up is so simple is foolish. Regular backup can save you in case of a hard drive crash, or accidental file deletion while a 3-2-1 strategy can save you from pretty much any type of data loss or device failure.

If you are managing many devices and a large volume of company data, it is advisable to create a comprehensive Data Backup Strategy. We hope you have found this useful. Do leave us your comments below. Also if you'd like to learn more about backups, call or email Jones IT today!


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