Do YOU Have a Backup Strategy? (here is mine...)

Category: Backup

I want to say a big THANKS again to all those who have sent comments and questions about backups. I'm really excited about the launch of my new ebook 'Everything You Need to Know About BACKUPS' and since I mentioned it last week, lots of you have been asking how and when you can get it. I'll answer that question in today's issue, but I also want to share some Backup Success Stories and talk to you about my Personal Backup Strategy. Read on!

How to Backup Everything

In case you missed my earlier postings in this series on backups, you might want to review the WHY (Nine Good Reasons for Backups) and the WHAT (Should You Back Up Everything?).

In those posts, I discussed the necessity of making regular backups, and covered some of the most common questions and objections. (Are backups complicated, time consuming or expensive? NO, not if you follow my advice!)

I talked about free backup software, the security of "cloud storage", and different types of backups. I also addressed the issue of what you need to backup, and why I believe "pick and choose" backup strategies are not a good idea.

Back it Up! Backup Strategies

In today's posting, I'm going to cover the HOW by laying out my own personal backup strategy. (Tomorrow I'll explain why Seinfeld's George Costanza unwittingly had the answer to preventing data loss.)

It's March, so maybe you've already forgotten your New Year's resolutions. But it's not too late to make a promise to yourself. Wouldn't it be great to have the peace of mind that your data is safe from viruses, hardware failures, theft, human error, and other potential data disasters? Resolving to protect your data is a great way to move away from fear and worry into a place of knowledge and confidence.

And like I've said, it doesn't have to be difficult or expensive. I've been helping people with computer problems for over 30 years. When I worked at IBM, I got the nickname "Doctor Bob" because I always had the answers to my co-workers' software and hardware questions. I left there in 1997, and began writing about computers, gadgets and the Internet for a larger audience. I try hard to explain things in a way that is accessible to both gurus and grandmas, and was thrilled when one of my readers once said "You're a translator for the technology impaired!"

My Personal Backup Strategy

A common question I get is "Bob, what do YOU recommend for making backups, and how exactly do you go about it?" I use a combination of software and hardware tools to make backups. It might be overkill for you, or you might adapt it for your own backups. Here are the tools and techniques that I've chosen to use for backups.

My personal backup strategy is to make a full system backup (also called a drive image) every Sunday morning at 3 AM. I supplement that with daily incremental backups to catch any new or changed files. The image file and incremental backups are stored on an external hard drive. I'm currently using a 2-Terabyte (2000 gigabytes) external drive that I've had for a couple years, and it's been rock solid.

That's all scheduled and done automatically with the Macrium Reflect software. I take that one step further, by using File History to keep three revisions of files in certain folders that I often work in. This allows me to recover from the occasional "oops".

I also subscribe to the "Backup Your Backup" philosophy. So in addition to making backups on my external hard drive, I keep some important files in cloud storage (Google Drive and Dropbox work well here), and upload my encrypted backup files to an offsite server. My process involves some geeky technical voodoo. But you can do pretty much the same thing by storing your backup on another computer in your home, or on a separate external drive.

And just because I can, I clone my C: drive to a spare hard drive in my desktop PC every weekend. So if something ever happened to my primary hard drive, and for some reason the backup failed (or was unavailable), I could tell my computer to boot up from the spare drive. Is that taking backup too far? Nah... if I was really paranoid, I would install a high-performance disk-mirroring system to sync my files in real time with a backup drive.

Your Success Stories

I asked you to tell me your own backup and recovery success stories, and I want to share two of those here:

Linda: "I had a close-to-new Windows system go bad, but I had Carbonite backup. It did take awhile, but I got it all back. Then recently several of the folders in my mail program disappeared, but I got them back too. I now also use an external hard drive for both my laptop and desktop which is my main computer. I want to be prepared in case something does happen again and it probably will. I do historical research and can't imagine having to start over. Thank you for all your advice."

Derek: "I had a hard drive disaster similar to yours. Was trying to help a friend with a virus that came from an infected website, and ended up getting zapped myself! The computer said something like OPERATING SYSTEM NOT FOUND and would not start. Fortunately I was making full backups on an external drive, and was able to restore everything, except for a few files from the previous day. Whew!"

Everything You Need to Know...

I hear things like this all the time: "I'm afraid my computer might get a virus or be hacked" or "I hope my hard drive doesn't crash." Those are signs of Fear and Worry. I've prepared the 7th Edition of my ebook Everything You Need to Know About BACKUPS to help you replace those negative thoughts with Knowledge and Confidence. I want you to make 2022 the year when you can say "Even if a data disaster happens, I am prepared and have a plan to recover."

The book starts with a chapter titled Demystifying the Backup which explains all the jargon and buzzwords in plain English. Then it moves on to cover Free Backup Software, Backup Strategies, and chapters on Backing Up with Windows 10 and 11. I have tips on Backing Up Multiple Computers and a list of Easy Backup Drives that can start your automatic backups as soon as you plug them in.

Lots of people are interested in online backups. The chapter Online or Local Backup? helps you decide which is best for you. Free Online Backup Services and Free Cloud Backup Services will show you where to go for 100% free online backups. And my chapter Are Online Backup Services Safe? will set your mind at ease about the safety and security of online backups.

Other chapters deal with Backups for Social Networking, Gmail and other email, and Backup for Your Mobile Phone. I also have some tips on how to Protect Your Backups From Ransomware, and Recover Deleted Files (even when you don't have a backup)!

There are 79 chapters in all, concluding with a more detailed version of My Personal Backup Strategy and a very important chapter titled "You Can’t Take it With You." That discussion covers digital estate planning, and how to make sure your data is handled properly after you're gone. And finally, an Appendix called Backup FAQs in which I answer over two dozen of the best and most interesting questions from my survey on backups.

Plus, three BONUSES...

My AskBob Special Report: Money-Saving Consumer Tips has 60+ pages of practical advice on avoiding identity theft, getting free credit reports, cashing in on unclaimed funds, saving money on prescriptions, online shopping discounts, avoiding common scams, and much more. I'll show you how to ditch your landline, fire the phone company, and make free phone calls. You can even replace your expensive cable TV subscription with free or cheaper online services. If you use even a handful of these consumer tips, you could save hundreds of dollars. This ebook is a free bonus to go along with Everything You Need to Know About BACKUPS.

BONUS REPORT #2 is The Best Free Software -- And Free Alternatives to Popular Commercial Software. Most people don't know the valuable secret I reveal in this report: there are excellent, FREE alternatives to many commonly used software titles! You'll find each program listed with a description of what it does, along with a link to download it. You can download them for free, and use them for free. No sneaky trials, no bill-me-later. I hope you'll find it informative, enjoyable and profitable to read through this report.

BONUS REPORT #3 is The Best Free Courses. In this report, you get my recommendations for free courses you can find online. Everyone knows that college is not cheap. But did you know that some college courses are free, online? Some of the most prestigious universities in the world offer thousands of courses free of charge to qualifying students, or to anyone with a Web browser.

I have a few last-minute tweaks to finish, so tomorrow, I'll reveal how to get your hands on Everything You Need to Know About BACKUPS - 7th Edition, and a couple of other surprises. Stay tuned!

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Most recent comments on "Do YOU Have a Backup Strategy? (here is mine...)"

Posted by:

14 Mar 2022

I'm an old-time computer person (I learned programming using punched cards on a UNIVAC 1100 series system back in the day). My second job (after that programming job) was as a system administrator (sometimes called a systems manager). Part of my responsibilities was the backup of the bank's stuff. We didn't have online options, so all we had was a Disaster Recovery plan. It involved calling the off-site tape storage company where our daily tapes were stored (they picked them up every morning). The tapes were delivered to our hot-site. When we got to the hot-site we loaded up the tapes and would start the restore process. As you can imagine, restoring files from 9-track tapes tapes a long, long time.
I mention this so you can use this question to guide you in your planning: What is the cost of downtime to you and your situation? The downtime could be caused by any number of reasons, all you know is that you don't have your files and it may take a few minutes or a few hours to restore them.
The New York Stock Exchange, to use one extreme example, has the cost of downtime in very dollar amounts. You can imagine that their recovery plan is going to be quite extensive (and expensive). If you can go a few hours or even a day, then you don't have to spend millions of dollars to create an all-encompassing plan.
To borrow from SPEED: "Pop Quiz: Your computer has been stolen/destroyed. What do you do?" If you can answer that, then you should be covered for your situation.

Posted by:

14 Mar 2022

What's wrong with just using Windows system image and making a restore disc. That's how I do it and have restored my puter several times

Posted by:

14 Mar 2022

Anything financial is on several USB flash drives.
Whole comp is cloned to boot tested ssds

Posted by:

Peter Oh
15 Mar 2022

Responding to Bill.
Yes it should work but the several times I have tried I end up being unable to be confident about success of the backup. Also I am dubious about implementation should the backup be needed.
You must be totally confident about the backup process & using it when disaster strikes.

Posted by:

Ernest N. Wilcox Jr.
15 Mar 2022

In response to Stephen:

Regarding your last question "To borrow from SPEED: "Pop Quiz: Your computer has been stolen/destroyed. What do you do?" If you can answer that, then you should be covered for your situation."

A good backup strategy is about half the answer. The other half is found in the question: "Your computer has been stolen, what do you do about the data that was stolen with it?" As with the good backup strategy solution, the solution to this second question is advanced preparation. Here is what I have done:

I have one desktop PC and two laptops. My desktop PC hosts my critical data. I'll start with system security. To access my system BIOS/UEFI a long strong password is required. Al the drives on my desktop are BitLocker encrypted. I have Ransomware protection enabled (Controlled Folder Access - prevents file-based malware from being installed). I use Microsoft Defender as my antimalware suit. I sign in with a Microsoft Password-less account. Since my desktop PC shuts down when it's powered off, a thief will be unable to log in (unless (s)he gets my phone too - it is ALWAYS with me, not my desktop). Since my drives are all encrypted, the thief will not be able to access their content.

Regarding my backup strategy, I create a full system backup on the first day of each month, and I create a differential backup daily. All backups are created prior to the start of my day. I retain two full system backups and thirty differential backups. With this strategy, I can restore my system to the state it was in on any day within the past thirty days. Finally, I sync my desktop PC with Microsoft OneDrive, so my data is backed up in real time.

I believe I have answered this question very well. If you can see any holes in my thinking, please respond.


Posted by:

16 Mar 2022

My computer for personal use--I make a clone of my hard drive @ every 2-3 months. This has saved me from computer crashes, reinstalling my operating system, and lost data.

Posted by:

John B
16 Mar 2022


You say that you backup to a 2-Terabyte hard drive. When that drive is full, what backup files do you keep and what files do you delete?

I use the same system but I use a 10-Terabute hard drive.

Posted by:

21 Mar 2022

I'm compulsive about backups and have been since olden times -- using DOS's XCOPY. I use two cloud-based systems: I-Drive and Carbonite, both of which do daily backups automatically (I think that they are "Incremental" rather than "Differential," but I'll have to check on that); and I-Drive also backs up to my local external 5 1/2 TB Seagate Expansion Drive.

Both, at different times -- crises and tragedies are recurrent phenomena! -- have saved me from untold disasters by supplying at no charge -- on temporarily lent USB drives -- full backups that I was able to transfer to my hard drives; it would have taken many, many hours to download them from the sites. And Carbonite has (had?) a live support and help system that is reminiscent of the nonpareil Help that WordPerfect provided when it was still in Orem, Utah.

I'll check the new edition of Bob's EVERYTHING YOU NEED TO KNOW... (also nonpareil) to see the latest on those two programs / services.

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