Should You Backup Everything?
All I can say is THANKS... and Wow! Since my Tuesday post laying out 9 Good Reasons for Backups, I have received so much positive feedback about my upcoming ebook 'Everything You Need to Know About Backups'. Since we've covered the WHY, today I'm going to talk about WHAT you need to back up. (Do YOU have all the bases covered?) Read on...
What Files and Data MUST Be Backed Up?
Before I begin, I want to share something that happened to me. The doorbell rang, the dog barked, and I could see the mailman waiting there, with two packages and a stack of letters. One in particular caught my attention. It was a handwritten letter from James, one of my AskBob readers.
The final paragraph of his letter absolutely made my day: "I love what you are doing in providing so much information about computers and internet... There is no one like you. You are an answer to the prayers of all of the computer-internet technology ignorant people like me. Thanks, and keep it up, please!"
I hope you don't mind me sharing that. I've been writing about computers and the Internet since 1994, answering questions, and as another reader put it, "translating for the technology impaired." Feedback that like really inspires me to keep pressing on.
So let's get down to business. One of the most common things I've heard from readers when discussing backups is confusion (or strong opinions) about what really needs to be backed up. Some say they occasionally copy their documents to a CD or flash drive. Others have a list of folders that they routinely back up to an external hard drive. A few mentioned that they use Google Drive or Dropbox to keep files or folders synced to online storage. Some prefer the simplicity of online backups with IDrive, Mozy, or Carbonite, which attempt to identify and back up your "important" files.
Others make a clean distinction between "system files", "program files" and "user files". Some create partitions on their hard drive to separate each type of data. They do backups for all files and folders that are created by them or the software they use. But they don't back up the operating system and installed software, because it can be re-downloaded or re-installed from CDs in the event of a hard drive crash.
Theory and Practice
In theory, there's nothing wrong with any of those ideas. But in practice, it's not the best approach, unless you're a bit geeky AND have lots of time on your hands. If your hard drive fails, you'll need to re-install the operating system, apply any needed security patches and updates, reconfigure all your customizations and personal settings, then install all your programs. Locating the software installation media (CDs or downloaded files) and license keys for paid software can be a big hassle. Only then can you restore your user files from backup.
That whole process can take MANY hours, often requires a bit of technical know-how, and you're never quite sure that everthing is put back the way it was. Quite often, people find that they forgot something. A critical file, folder or program is missing from the backup.
A Better Way (and my success story)...
By contrast, I recently had a hard drive go bad. It took me just 23 minutes to restore 60+ gigabytes of data, and I was back up and running like nothing happened. I was able to recover so quickly and easily because I do full system backups (also called "image backups") every Sunday, and incremental backups every weekday at 3AM.
An image backup rolls EVERYTHING on your hard drive into a single file that can be stored on a flash drive or external hard drive. It can be used to restore the entire drive, or just selected files and folders. All that happens automatically with my favorite free backup software, so I never have to worry about remembering to do it.
There's a chapter in my ebook with step-by-step instructions and screen grabs for doing exactly that. When my hard drive refused to boot up, and I couldn't even detect a single file on it, I didn't panic because I knew that every single file was safely backed up. As I mentioned in my last posting, CONFIDENCE beats HOPE every time! (I actually take my backups 2 or 3 steps further, but I'll discuss my personal backup strategy in my posting next Monday.)
To those who say "I don't need to do backups" let me point out that I've had TWO instances in the past six months where a NEW HARD DRIVE went on the fritz, and it seemed like a total loss. Stuff happens... hardware failure, viruses, power surges, data breaches and natural disasters. Things can get lost, stolen, wet or broken. And there's always human error and those annoying "senior moments".
So YES! Everyone who uses a computer needs a backup. And ideally, you should backup everything, automatically, and often.
Hard Drive, CHECK. What Else?
Any backup is better than nothing, but hopefully I've convinced you that it's a good idea to make full system (image) backups. Free software is available to make it a simple and automatic process. All you need is an inexpensive USB flash drive or an external hard drive. And in my book, you'll learn about free online backup options.
So that covers the hard drive on your desktop or laptop. Have you thought about the data on your mobile gadgets? If your phone was stolen, or went through the wash, just imagine losing your address book, photos, apps and text messages. And here's something else to consider. More and more, our lives are moving online. What would you do if your email, your Facebook account, or online files got hacked, wiped out, or your password was lost?
Continuing the Conversation...
I want to hear YOUR backup success stories! Have you had a hard drive failure or data loss, and then recovered with a backup? Tell your fellow readers about it here, by posting in the comment section below. Next Monday, I'll share your stories, talk about what else needs to be backed up, and answer more of the questions you submitted in my ebook survey. See you then! -- Bob
This article was posted by Bob Rankin on 19 Jan 2017
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Article information: AskBobRankin -- Should You Backup Everything? (Posted: 19 Jan 2017)
Copyright © 2005 - Bob Rankin - All Rights Reserved