Your data is important to you, and as such, should be backed up on a regular basis. You don’t want to leave it to a third-party company that may or may not be reliable. Your best option is to select a data backup solution that you can manage and gives you the ability to create efficient and effective backup processes.
When you look for a data backup solution, you need to have a better understanding of which vendors offer the best options, along with how to assess them. It might sound like a tedious task, but when it comes to backing up your data, you won’t be sorry you did it.
Of course, it’s easy to say that you need a backup data solution, but the reasons aren’t as obvious as they used to be. The abilities of backup software have substantially improved over the years. For instance, backup software no longer simply copies the data. Now, it replicates and recovers as needed.
Current data backup solutions can offer network backups, which means they can automatically initiate server backups. Additionally, modern backup solutions offer seamless integration with cloud technology. Of course, many data backup solutions offer similar capabilities, which means you need to do some research to determine which one works best for you.
Pay attention to your needs so you can make the right decision. Do you need to keep duplicates of important documentation or photographs? What about your financial records? Sure, it’s time-consuming, but it might wind up being well worth the effort. With a little understanding and the right tools, you can easily backup your data.
What You Should and Should Not Backup
While most people just want to back up everything on their computer, it’s not necessary to do so. Some files or programs just don’t need to be saved. Let’s take a look at what you should back up, along with what you don’t need to worry about keeping.
Of course, the most important thing to backup is your personal files. Most PCs keep your personal files in the “Username” folder. This will be your user account name. Your Documents, Pictures, Videos, and Music are saved in this directory by default. Additionally, your Downloads folder resides under the “Username” folder.
Also included is your Desktop folder, which is a place where many people store files, your cloud storage folders (Google Drive, Dropbox, OneDrive, etc.), along with your iTunes music folder, if you use iTunes.
You may want to back up the entirety of your user account directory. This includes a hidden AppData folder, which stores personal files and settings that you don’t pay much attention to. These files are important if multiple people are using the same computer.
Of course, your information and data may not necessarily be stored in the folders we’re mentioning, so keep that in mind as you go about backing everything up. If you saved your files in other locations, be sure you back them up. For instance, if you have a separate folder in which you download all your movies, then you will want to ensure that you specifically back up that folder.
Also kept in the AppData folder are your browser bookmarks and other settings, so when you back up your entire “Username” folder, you’ll be saving these as well. Before doing so, however, you may want to make use of your browser’s syncing capabilities so that everything is saved prior to backing up.
You may need to consider backing up your emails. If you use a desktop email client, this might be a good idea, however, if you use a more modern email protocol, it’s likely that master copies of your email are stored on a remote server. Just keep in mind that if you’ve downloaded certain emails and deleted them from the server, you’ll want to back them up.
Chances are good that your emails are kept in the AppData folder, so as long as you’re backing that up, you don’t have to worry about your emails. However, you may want to do your due diligence, just to be sure you have the location right since some clients store their emails elsewhere.
Make sure you back up any other personal data or settings that you won’t find in the “Username” folder. One place you may want to consider is in the Program Data folder. Many applications are stored in that location.
If you play PC games, you may want to take a look at where the games are saved. Most games save their files online now, so you don’t have to worry about backing anything up. However, many games store backups in the AppData folder, while others you’ll find in Program Data. If you aren’t sure where to find your game files, there are several resources available online that can point you in the right direction.
The list could go on, but the idea is that you’re backing up any data you care about. It could be family pictures, settings for an application you need, or some save files for a game you’ve dedicated days of your life to play. If it’s important to you, be sure it’s backed up.
Don’t Back Up
You never need to back up your Program Files folder or your Windows directory folder. Don’t touch those folders.
The Program Files location keeps your installed applications files. Typically you can’t copy these files over. What you’ll need to do is reinstall the programs from scratch. As a result, there’s really no point to backing this folder up.
Similarly, you don’t need to worry about the Windows directory, as it contains all your Windows system files. They aren’t portable and Windows will set up all these files when you install the OS, so you don’t need to worry about backing them up.
There are also several programs and files that can be quickly moved between PCs. For instance, Steam is a program that can be copied over, but that doesn’t mean you have to. If it’s not a folder that’s critical to back up, then don’t worry about it. This is especially the case if you’re limited on space. Back up only what you need to and leave everything else alone.
We’ve discussed what you should and should not backup, but what about the features you should look for in your data backup solution? There are a variety of features and functionalities available on many different solutions. But what do you really need? Here’s a quick list of what you should look for in your data backup solution.
Automation is important to a lot of people. This type of feature in your data backup solution allows you to set it up and forget about it. Simply set up the backup process during installation, then move on to other things. It’s one less thing that you have to worry about. And if something does go wrong, you’ll be alerted via a smart notification.
Easy to Use
Ideally, you want a data backup solution that is easy to use and understand. Bear in mind that complexity is the enemy. You want a solution that is simple to install, run, and manage. Keep an eye out for a clean, user friendly application that offers a dashboard you can customize.
It almost goes without saying, but data backup software should be reliable. Search for an established solution that has proven itself on the market. Don’t fall for fancy start-ups that offer flashy features that haven’t been tested on the market. These types of solutions can increase the chances that you’ll lose your data.
Speed is important in any data backup solution. No one likes it when a lack of speed creates a bottleneck in their current activities. Getting your system back up and running quickly is important to anyone. It would be fair to say that if you have the choice between being back up and running in a few minutes or a few hours, most people would choose the former.
You want to be sure that your data is protected against theft and hacking, so be sure to select a data backup solution that offers strong security features. For instance, you might be sure that your data is encrypted during transmission and stays encrypted while it’s in storage.
When you’re talking backing up data in your home, it’s important to remember that you probably have numerous devices which support various operating systems. Be sure the backup solution you select can handle different platforms. This is even more of a necessity if these devices are in use on a daily basis.
It’s not likely, but if you have a complex setup, you want to ensure that your data backup solution can handle your differing needs. A versatile backup solution can handle any type of storage options you need. These could include local disks, the cloud, or a NAS.
Selecting a Data Backup Solution
When choosing the best data backup solution for you, you want to be sure you are as prepared as possible. While you’ll be unable to prevent a disaster from occurring, you can at least have everything in place to protect against any data loss. Whether your hard drive crashes or someone unintentionally deletes some files, you want to make sure you’re protected.
Even if you manage to perform backups on a regular basis, you still have the potential to lose data if you don’t have your files backed up offsite. Using an online data backup solution means you’ll have your hard drives scanned on a regular basis. The software will scan the, encrypt them for security purposes, then send them on to the cloud for safekeeping.
Of course, in reality, your files are kept in a high-storage remote server which has a high-speed connection to the internet. Once you have your files backed up to these servers, you then have the ability to access them from anywhere. This lets you rest easy knowing you can restore your files if something should get deleted or your computer suddenly crashes. Many data backup solutions let you view and access your files via a mobile device or web browser.
Cloud Storage vs. File Syncing
While there are some similarities, there is a difference between cloud storage and data backup services and file syncing services. Services like Dropbox, Box, OneDrive, and GoogleDrive do store their files in the cloud, however, they do not automatically protect important files and documents.
Primarily, file syncing services sync once folder and all existing subfolders to the cloud. Some, like Google Drive, offer online document creating and editing. On the other hand, data backup software provides full-scale backup functionality. You can back up any files on your PC without it needing to exist in a specific directory.
How Much Do Data Backup Services Cost?
Chances are good that you’ll be paying for a backup service for years, so you’ll probably want to pay close attention to how much the service costs prior to signing up. Typically, data backup solutions are subscription based. The differences are in the features and overall cost, so be sure to do some comparison shopping before picking one.
Most backup solutions base their pricing on the amount of storage you need, however, there are some that charge you per device. If you’re looking for a long-term commitment, many services will give good discounts if you sign up for one or two years. There are free options, however, these typically have low storage options and restrict features until you pay for the service.
Scheduled Data Backups and Uploads
Data backup solutions vary the method in which they set up and complete backups. Some solutions automatically encrypt and upload your files without any input on your end. Others give you the option to select which files and folders you want to backup. You’ll have to decide which works better for you.
There are some data backup solutions that prevent you from backing up certain file types, so if you feel you’ll need those, head in a different direction. Some, for example, won’t let you back up program files, while others won’t let you save files from a network or external drive. If this is a feature you need, be sure you choose a data backup solution that supports it.
There a few methods which your data backup solution will determine when your files are sent to its servers. The first method is fine, but not preferred. This is a fixed schedule. What this means is that the solution will back up your files once a day/week/month. This works but isn’t ideal.
The second method, which is the preferred method, is that the solution uploads files and changes as they occur on your PC. This is a continuous backup setup, and the system only uploads the files or parts of files that were changed so you’re not overloading your internet connectivity.
Lastly, some systems will let you upload and backup your data on demand. If you need to be in control, this might be the best option for you, however, it does mean that you have to always remember to back up your files. I don’t know about you, but I’d much rather leave it to the software.
Speed and Security of Servers
We talked a little about this in the features section, but let’s dig into it a little deeper. Many data backup solutions encrypt your data with strong systems prior to sending them to their servers. There are several methods in play here, so you’ll have to decide which one makes sense for you.
Some services, for instance, offer a security option in which you are the only person who has the password. It is never kept on the servers and it used for any security involved with the account. Other solutions use another method which requires separate passwords. One for the account itself one for encryption purposes.
That means if you have full control over the password and you forget it, there’s no one available to help you restore your data. This includes employees that work for your chosen solution. If you choose this method, be sure to use a strong password and store it in a password manager so you don’t have to worry about remembering it each time you need to restore your data.
In regards to speed, most data backup solutions depend on how quickly they can prepare your files. This entails encryptings and then compressing them, then transferring them to their server. Realistically, this would only be a concern if the amount of data you need to back up is sizeable.
A high-quality backup solution service will also minimize its impact on your resources and network. Be sure you validate your speed test results prior to selecting a data backup solution.
File and Folder Restoration
Your data backup solution isn’t much use if it can’t restore or recover your files. Ideally, this is a quick and simple process, so try to find one that doesn’t complicate things. Many services offer a search tool in the event that you need to find a specific file. In the event that you need to perform a large restore, look for a data backup solution that lets you replicate your entire folder structure.
Bear in mind that many plans only cover one computer, so if you do have to recover your data, you might have to move the account to a new computer. Some options also provide a feature referred to as versioning. This lets you choose an earlier version of certain files in case you made unwanted changes. Other solutions refer to it as archiving. Regardless of what you call it, it’s nice to have access to earlier file versions in the event that you accidentally delete one.
Mobile and Web Backup Applications
One of the greatest advantages to having a data backup solution is that it gives you the ability to access your files from anywhere you have an internet connection. Many data backup solutions let you view or download your data from a web browser, however, others offer much more.
Advanced back solutions let you play music, watch videos, or view photos and documents. Some include file-sharing capabilities. The best of these let you set a password that works for a specified period of time. You share the password with friends and family and when the time expires, so does the password.
There are also a fair amount of data backup solutions that include iOS and Android applications which you can use form your smartphone. However, the quality and functionality of these apps vary based on the solution you select. Some provide media and document downloads, while others include much more in-depth features. Additionally, some offer file-sharing abilities, similar to what you can do through the web browser.
For those data backup solutions that go above and beyond the standard features, you can get restoration uploads via an external hard drive. The solution ships the external to you so you have a hard copy of your backup. Some solutions also offer remote wipe capability. This means, if your laptop is lost or stolen, you can track the location of the device and completely wipe it if need be.
Final Word on Data Backups
Selecting the best data backup solution isn’t as difficult as some people think it would be. There are some features that you’ll want to have while others may not seem as important to you. Security and encryption are almost always a good idea to have, that way your data is protected while it resides on the servers of your backup solution.
Take the time to do your research. Backing up your data is important, as is the ability to quickly and easily restore your information in the event of a hard drive crash or disaster. There are a wide variety of options available, so you shouldn’t have any trouble finding a data backup solution that works right for you.