It’s time for a fresh look at computer backup

I revisit this topic of data backup occasionally and I think you should too. The simple question is ‘What’s the best way to keep my digital data safe from disaster?

The conversation involves several steps. First, it is important to recognize the range of risks. It does no good to have a backup system that protects you from every possibility except the one that just wiped out your data. We need to consider a wide range  of possible disasters: disk crash, theft, network or connectivity failure, cyber crime, malicious software attack or even something as mundane as incompatible software updates. Odd as it may sound, our disaster recovery plan should even attempt to protect against risks that we don’t even know about yet.

Consumer Reports did a good job of identifying the basic data security issues in its April 2016 edition but completely omits product recommendations. (I don’t know why but CR seems to be headed in this direction and it is confusing to readers who have come to rely on the publication for product reviews).

There is no single perfect backup solution. If you have a backup drive in the same location as your PC, for example, then both are vulnerable to the same risks. If you use a cloud-based solution then your data may be unavailable in a disaster if you lose internet access. It makes sense to consider as many possible disasters as we can imagine and use multiple approaches to address the risks.

Second, it makes sense to take a fresh look at what people are saying about the popular backup products and services. This seems to be not so easy lately.

I use a simple, cost-effective solution using several 2TB to 4TB external drives running Windows 10 File Recovery program. Windows 10 actually includes two different backup programs: File History and Windows Backup and Restore. File History automatically saves multiple versions of your files, so you can go back in time and restore a previous version file before it was changed or deleted. The Backup and Restore program creates a single backup copy of the latest version of your files. It can be run manually or on an automated schedule. Backup and Restore can also create a system image which is a snapshot of your entire system—operating system, programs, documents, and all—which makes it easy to restore everything in the event of a disk crash. I use all three of these programs: File History, Backup and System Image.

Lately I’ve noticed that the USB connected backup drive is not working properly on my PC. Apparently the USB connections became loose over time so that the drive is not working properly to back up data. There are better/faster cable connections but my 18 month old primary machine doesn’t have them.

I was surprised id an informal discussion of data backup nobody even mentioned Windows 10 backups.

Networked drives called “NAS” are a more popular option especially for systems where multiple drives and devices must be backed up. These are reportedly slower when it comes to copying a whole drive over a wireless connection. A higher speed ethernet connection could solve that issue. However, this only works when you are physically located at home or office where the network is located, which isn’t very often for me.

I’ve used online or cloud-based systems like Carbonite and OneDrive and Google Drive with great success. Theoretically, I could even use my own NAS with a remote connection. backup services.

So right now I am using a combination of two USB drives and various cloud-based systems but am not thrilled with any of them. I’d love to hear what’s working for you for home-based or small business data backup.


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