Call for back-up

Call for back up

Keep your data safe

The golden rule of computers for as long as I can remember has been “back up your files”! In reality, most of us don’t back up as often as we should. So why is it so important?If you accidentally lose or delete that important document, e-mail or picture, it means you’ll have a copy. And, 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! Backing up is also a great way of making your documents more accessible to you from other devices.

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. Cloud storage

Cloud storage has quickly become one of the most versatile and accessible methods of backing up your data. Computers and tablets with operating systems from Apple, Microsoft and Google all now come with their own Cloud storage solution, and all you need to do is sign up for a limited amount of free data.

Pros:There are many Cloud solutions to choose from and most will provide some free storage. Your files will also be accessible from anywhere with an internet connection that will allow you to log in to your account. It works with tablets and smartphones, as well as computers.

Cons: Although they tend to be very reliable with powerful servers, an internet or power fault can mean you won’t be able to access your files immediately. Large files may take a lot longer to back-up, depending on available internet speed. You’ll also be surrendering your data to a third party to look after, so you need to be sure that you trust them with your personal files.

2. Network Attached Storage (NAS) Drives

Network Attached Storage (NAS) drives are similar to Cloud services in that they allow you to access your data through the use of an internet connection. However, NAS drives are personal to you - they can sit in your home allowing you to have full control over your own data.

Pros: You can access your data from any device with an internet connection. Files remain private to anyone who has the login details. Certain types of RAID storage with several drives can create extra backups, should one drive fail.

Cons: Security from hacks and viruses is likely to be less substantial on a home service than with dedicated Cloud services. Most home networks are more likely to fail than a big company’s network, and if you lose your main files in a house fire or burglary, you may lose your backups too.

External Hard drives

3. External hard drive

As hard drives have become cheaper, this has become the most popular solution for making large-scale backups.

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.

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. Most won’t work with tablets.

4. 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!

Optical disks

5. Optical disks

This refers to rewritable CDs, DVDs and Blu-ray disks. Although they’ve been largely replaced by flash drives and external hard drives for storage, 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. Can store up to 25GB on a single Blu-ray disc.

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 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. Also, many computers no longer include an optical drive as standard, so you may need to purchase an external one.

6. Backup 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”. Apple Mac computers include Apple’s own ‘Time Machine’ software for creating regular back ups.

Top tips:

  • Wherever possible, make several copies of your most important data, in case one backup fails.
  • 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).