...When it's the only copy you have left.
No matter how little you might use your computer or how secure you think your files are, having a back-up of your computer is ALWAYS a good idea. Losing your only copy of important documents or photos is usually a lot worse than just thinking it might happen. If you ever choose to have us work on your computer, one of the first things we will do is ask about your latest back-up or perform one for you.
Like many important but mundane tasks, it is easy to allow simple roadblocks to mobilize you into inaction. If you've never performed a back-up, then there are enough questions to make you remember that closet you'd rather clean out. For those of you who know how to do a back-up, just pick a time today and get 'er done. For those of you that see this as a daunting leap into the unknown, let me see if I can help you out by answering a few of those paralyzing questions.
The basic questions that arise once you've decided to do a back-up are as follows:
- What files should I back-up?
- Where do I want my back-up files to be stored?
- What type of back-up do I need to perform?
- How do I start the back-up process?
What files should I back-up?
When thinking about what files to back-up on your computer, our rule of thumb is that the less technical you are, the more of your computer you should back-up. A full back-up of your entire computer can be used to restore everything including your operating system (e.g. Windows) if you fall victim to a hardware failure or ransomware (a topic for another day). A back-up of your important documents, photos, or other personal files can be enough if you have multiple computers or are preparing for an upgrade. The point is that you need to decide how protected your files need to be and how quickly you need to be back in business if you lose them. If you are not sure, we recommend going for the full computer back-up.
Where do I want my back-up files to be stored?
This is a difficult question mainly because there are so many options. Back-ups can be stored on Thumb Drives, External Hard Drives, separate Internal Drives, CDs (although these are a dying medium) and in The Cloud using services like Google Drive, Dropbox, or iCloud. Cloud based services tout their security and they are generally well protected. In reality though, they are routinely attacked and have to be right every time in their own defense. The hackers only have to get it right once to get through. Look at what happened to Equifax.
While all of these devices or methods can accomplish what is needed to store a computer back-up, our recommendation is the most conservative approach of having and using an External Hard Drive. It should be big enough to hold your entire computer image including all of your files. It should be one that can be used and removed from the on-line environment until the next time it is needed. If you are only backing up files and photos, a thumb drive can be used but be sure to label it properly and keep it separate from other thumb drives so it is not accidentally lost or used for some other purpose. If you use a cloud-based service, be discriminate about what files you keep in the cloud. Be very careful about choosing to store files in the cloud that contain PII (Personally Identifiable Information) such as social security numbers, account numbers, and other personal statistics.
What type of back-up do I need to perform?
The answer to this question really depends on the type of user you are. In a business environment where files consist of contracts, presentations, and business analysis documents, back-ups might be scheduled to run daily or even in some cases multiple times during the day. For home users, documents might not be updated for days or weeks and monthly backups might be enough to minimize risk effectively. But the type of back-up is not really defined by frequency but by what is being captured. We think it is a good idea to run a full computer back-up at least every six months and incremental back-ups (which just capture the changes to documents, files, and photos), at least weekly. If you use your computer for work or extensively for a hobby or just for fun, we recommend increasing the frequency of both the full and incremental back-ups.
How do I start the back-up process?
The most important part of creating a back-up is deciding to do it. We often leave things we know we need to do undone at our own detriment. It is some strange part of human nature. So choose to do a back-up today. Here are the steps:
- Acquire the equipment or services you need to create a back-up. This would be an External Hard Drive, a thumb drive, or a subscription cloud service.
- Find the back-up procedure that fits your computer and operating system (see links below or Google How to perform a backup for <my PC type and operating system>)
- Complete the back-up
- Congratulate yourself because you now have a copy of your important data files
As always, if the thought of doing your own back-ups and getting it right causes you stress and anxiety, you can call DAP Assist to help. Please visit our Contact Us page or call 203.309.9148.