Keep computer files safe
A golden rule of computers for as long as I can remember has been “back up your files”! In reality, most of us do so rarely, if at all. So why is backing up so important?
First, if you accidentally lose or delete that important document, e-mail or picture, it means you’ll have a copy. And second, if your computer fails on you, becomes compromised by malware or a virus, or falls victim to a software upgrade that goes pear-shaped, you won’t lose all those precious files!
There are two ways of backing-up:
- File backups: copying your files to an external disk.
- Complete computer backups: this is when a software program creates an 'image' of your computer hard drive so that it can be returned to a particular point in time.
What’s the best back-up medium to use?
1. External hard drive
As hard drives have become cheaper, this has become the most popular solution for making large-scale back-ups.
Pros: lots of hard drive space for relatively little cost. If you’re a personal user, you’ll probably fit all the files on your computer on one disk. Portable hard drives can be easily transported, and network hard drives can be shared by attaching them to a router and provide a backup point for the household.
Cons: external hard drives can fail or suffer damage, so don’t rely on them as the only backup if your files are critically important – especially if you’re a business user.
2. USB flash drives
These are small “sticks” and the most common devices for small backups. They may be all you need if you don’t have lots of large multimedia files, such as video.
Pros: small, convenient, easy to carry around and economical. Because they use “flash” memory, they’re less vulnerable to damage or failure.
Cons: probably not sufficient to backup your whole computer. Easy to lose, so be careful of putting confidential files on them!
3. Optical disks
This refers to CD and DVD disks, which most modern computers will have. Although they’ve been largely replaced by flash drives and external hard drives, they can be useful for archiving.
Pros: useful for making backups that you can file away, particularly for backup “images”. Economical and secure, without the risk of failure associated with hard drives.
Cons: CDs in particular don’t hold much data, and DVDs come in several formats, so be sure to buy the right type for your computer’s DVD drive! Usually a slower method of backing up, and you probably won’t be able to just replace one file with a newer version in the way you can with external drives.
4. Back-up software
Your Windows PC may have a backup application, but a separate backup software suite will simplify the process and remind you to make the backup; especially useful for making backup “images”.
- If you buy music or video online, make backup copies on a hard drive or DVD/CD
- NEVER put confidential business or personal files on a USB flash drive unless you have encryption software that makes the data unreadable on another computer
- If you’re running a business that handles cardholder data, you’ll be expected to make backups and use AES 128 encryption or better. See: data protection and pc security standards for more information (opens in a new window).