File Backups: Only back up what you don’t want to lose

You know you should back everything up. But do you?

In celebration of #worldbackupday, we’re sharing our thoughts and 2 simple, reliable ways you can do this.

DISCLAIMERS: First, we get no money from, and have no affiliate connection to, either of the companies or products we are recommending here. Second, this article is directed to personal, small business or home office desktop use cases. We use them both ourselves.

Backing Up Your Data Is An Investment In Your Sanity

It’s like putting money into a savings account – everybody knows they should do it, but it’s so easy not to get around to it. Days become weeks, weeks become years… and then one fateful day BAM. Computer crashes. Hard drive dies. Catastrophic disaster.

Or it could be even simpler. You have a deadline, you’re working on a project. Your pet weasel steps on the keyboard and you lose hours, or weeks, of work.

“I should have backed stuff up.”

It used to be hard to set up and manage backups. Anybody remember magnetic storage? Revolving backup tapes every week, few days or even daily? What a huge PITA that was. Now it really isn’t difficult. Take advantage of the automation and services modern technology has to offer, which makes the process a whole lot easier.

Proper Data Backup System Choices Depend On Your Needs

Are you on Apple? Windows? Linux? The following solutions are all cross-platform, though since we’re mainly a Mac shop these days we have bonus info for OS X.

Questions To Ask Yourself Before Backing Up Your Data

1) How much data are you backing up? 2) How much do you care about security, privacy and encryption? 3) Do you need to access your data remotely?

We could ask a LOT more questions but we want to keep this VERY simple and basic.

Scenario 1:

Amount of data a few TB at most, high privacy/encryption preference, needs remote access.

This is our situation. Without getting into overmuch complexity, we use SpiderOakONE. Fully encrypted, reasonable prices, set it and forget it. Works cross platform. “Automatic” backup tracks changes to files and updates them. There’s also a “Hive” folder you can drag files into, to quickly access them from any device (in addition to the standard backup). Basically like a Dropbox feature.

The app is straightforward in that you are able to check a box for each directory (folder) you want to back up. That’s about it.

Scenario 2:

Same or more data, average to low security requirement, want mostly local access but maybe remote.

Another backup we use for local copies is a Seagate SDrive . It’s an external hard drive that you plug into your home network (and access via ethernet or wifi). There’s a web interface for the device which allows you to add logins so the fam can all have their own directories to drag files into. You can (but don’t have to) connect to a Seagate account that will allow you to remotely access the device. I have security concerns about that, and also about the fact that the drive itself is not encrypted (so you may want to encrypt your data before copying to it) but if you aren’t storing military secrets it may be fine for you (and you don’t have to allow remote access).

It’s not terribly hard to set up, cross platform. If you’re on a mac, you can set it as your Time Machine backup disc (as can all other users you give access to), and there is a menubar widget for it.

That’s it!

We could go on for pages and pages but the problem with backups is they are like dental hygiene. Not many of us really look forward to seeing the dentist, or even brushing our teeth for that matter. But when you get those teeth pulled, you’ll wish you’d brushed (more). So, let’s keep this as short and simple as possible. Get in the habit and it will become second nature. You will be thankful when things fall apart, and you actually have an easily accessible copy of that receipt you need, a recent version of a document, or a critical email.

Extra Credit:

Use a password manager and don’t re-use passwords!

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