By Martin Jansen, Owner of Jansen-PCINFO
Hello, World Backup Day is on March 31, but just saying ‘back up your devices’ is not enough. People need the resources to backup their data, i.e., time, media and knowledge. I can help you with media and knowledge, but not time. You have to make the time to schedule your backups.
The most simple form of backup is a USB Hard Drive that looks like this:
Two terabyte drives cost about $60. Just plug it in on your computer and it will appear as an extra drive. Windows will assign a drive letter and other operating systems will open the drive in a file manager.
From there it is easy to copy over Documents, Pictures, Videos and other files stored on the computer’s drive to the USB Hard Drive. For instance, in your file manager, right click on the Documents folder and select copy (Ctrl+C) and paste (Ctrl+V) to the blank USB drive.
Once the files have been copied, you’ll have the peace of mind of knowing that your data is safe when, not if, the drive fails on your computer. NOTE: I would love to write that this is a one and done proposition, but this is not so. Files get added and files change on your computer’s drive. Backups take different forms like full, differential and incremental. I’m going to advocate for incremental backups here.
Incremental backups look for files that are added or changed and updates those files on the USB drive. For this to happen, you’ll need some software. Fortunately, there is free software to accomplish this task. FreeFileSync is available for Linux, Windows and MacOS. When run successfully, FreeFileSync will synchronize files between a source and destination folder. When first run, I recommend a Mirror backup and subsequent backups use Two Way to backup any new or changed files. I really like FreeFileSync because it is small and efficient. It works the same for all platforms and is easy to use. Here’s an image of the interface:
One directory that I definitely exclude from backup is the Downloads directory. Although this is the default directory to download files in most browsers, the files are usually temporary and can be quite large.
USB drives are great, but other people and businesses use Network Attached Storage (a NAS) to accomplish file storage and backup. You may have heard of RAID or redundant array of independent drives, which backs up files between at least two drives. Way too complicated for most folks, but the idea is the same – have at least two copies of valuable files, one locally and the other on backup.
Another backup option is to use Cloud Storage. Prices for these services are all over the block and are ongoing. Cloud storage is commonly used on mobile devices like cell phones for pictures and other data. The more data stored the more it usually costs. Restoration of files, in case of disaster, takes much longer on cloud storage due to bandwidth restrictions.
System backups take an image of your computer system at a given time and backs it up to chosen media. This is different from file backups, but just as important. Windows users manually do this through the ‘brilliantly named’ Backup and Restore utility. Linux Mint uses TimeShift which can be scheduled to backup the system. MacOS users get Time Machine. System backups can be used to restore systems to a previous state should a software upgrade go awry.
So there you have it. You now have the knowledge to backup your system and files. I urge you to get the media and software to backup your files should the worst happen. Make time to backup your system and important files for your own peace of mind.
P.S. Another tip: in case of fire, a fireproof bag can help preserve your USB drive and important documents.