Backing Up Your Computer Correctly

As much as it pains me, I’m going to confess to my fellow members of the Self-Reliance Institute that one of the things in life I consistently worry about is whether I am correctly backing up the files on my computers.

For better or worse – I often think worse – much of my life is spent working on my desktop or laptop computers. And, like many people, I’ve experienced that horrible moment when you realize your computer’s hard drive is crashing and there’s not a darn thing you can do at that moment to preserve what’s on the drive unless you’ve been regularly backing up the data.

Fortunately, when it did happen to me, I had backed up the critical files I needed. But it was a huge scare. And until I successfully restored the files, I wasn’t sure whether I had correctly backed up what I needed.

To this day, when I see my backup program running – I use Carbonite – I wonder if I’ve checked all the correct files I need while omitting files that just needlessly take space.

I’m going to bet that I’m not the only one who – even though I use a backup program – frequently wonders if I’m doing it correctly and if there might be a better way to ensure that I don’t lose critical files on my computer if it crashes.

That’s why I want to share with you an article and video by Walt Mossberg on this topic. Many of you might recognize Mossberg as a long time tech writer at the Wall Street Journal. I always liked Mossberg’s work at the Journal because he’s excellent at taking technical issues and making them understandable for non-technically inclined readers.

Recently, Mossberg left the Journal and co-founded an online tech publication called Re/code. It’s a great source for information and news impacting the tech world and I highly recommend the publication. Best of all, it’s free.

Back to backups.

A couple of weeks ago, Mossberg reviewed a backup product called Backblaze. But, in doing so, he also talked about a number of aspects that should be part of any good backup process. The article, “Triple Coverage: Back Up Your Computer in Three Ways,” is excellent and I’d like to share a bit of it with you and also highly recommend that you view the video contained in the article.

As Mossberg points out, a good backup procedure actually involves three types of backup.

For years, everyone has told you that you should be backing up your computer on a regular schedule — even though it’s a pain to do so — lest you lose precious data to a crash, to malware, to theft or just irreversible failure. But everyone has been wrong. In fact, you should back up your computer in three different ways, continuously. And it is easier than ever to do.”

According to Mossberg, the three parts of a good backup process include:

1) “Using one of the online sharing and syncing services, like Dropbox, to synchronize the most important data files — documents, photos and such — between the cloud and a folder on your PCs or Macs. These could also be the files that change most often, or which you are using most frequently at any given time.”

2) “Make a comprehensive local backup, using an external hard disk. This disk can either be physically connected to the computer or it can be a drive connected to your network. Such a backup includes not only all the data you’ve created, but also the operating system and apps, and can be used to fully restore the computer.”

3) “Back up all the files and data you create to the cloud, continuously. That’s where Backblaze comes in. There have been services like this for some years. The best known are likely Carbonite and Mozy. But I recommend Backblaze, or a competitor called CrashPlan…In my view, their basic plans have fewer limitations, and in our tests they worked well.”

Out of respect for Mossberg’s expertise, I left his recommendations for Backblaze and CrashPlan in the quoted sections because his years of experience warrant giving his recommendations serious consideration. But, as I mentioned, I use Carbonite and I am very satisfied.

But, let’s not quibble about specific programs. The important takeaway is to be using the three-part method that Mossberg lays out. In that way, you can feel very secure in the knowledge that if the worst happens, your data and your files will be safe and available.

As always, please share your experiences with me at[email protected]

How do you backup your computer(s)?

Have you ever lost files that weren’t backed up? Have you ever backed up files but couldn’t restore them when needed? (My worst nightmare)

Do you use a commercial product like Carbonite or Backblaze? Are you satisfied?

I’d love to hear from you!

Be safe and secure,

Rob Douglas

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