What's YOUR Backup Strategy? (I'll show you mine...)

Category: Backup

I want to say 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 that "pick and choose" backup strategies are not a good idea.

Backup Strategies

In today's posting, I'm going to cover the HOW by laying out my own personal backup strategy. Maybe you're not big on New Year resolutions, but wouldn't it be great to have the peace of mind that your data is safe from viruses, hardware failures, theft and other potential data disasters?

The beginning of the year is an opportunity for personal transformation, and 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 an IDrive 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 a program called FreeFileSync to keep three revisions of files in certain folders that I often work in. This allows me to recover from the occasional "oops". (On my Windows 10 laptop, I use File History instead for this step.)

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 a Linux server, and some geeky technical voodoo. But you can use Crashplan to store your backup on another computer in your home, or even on a friend's computer, over the Internet.

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 7 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. I have your earlier ebook on backups. 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 written 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 2017 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 7, 8 and 10. I have tips on Backing Up Multiple Computers and a list of Five 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, Backups for iTunes, Gmail and other email, and Backup for Your Mobile Phone. I even have some tips on how to Recover Deleted Files (even when you don't have a backup)!

There are 40 chapters in all, concluding with a more detailed version of My Personal Backup Strategy and an Appendix called Backup Q&A in which I answer over two dozen of the best and most interesting questions from my survey on backups.

Plus, a BONUS...

I've been working on a new ebook: Everything You Need to Know About HARD DRIVES, and I'm going to include that as a free bonus to go along with Everything You Need to Know About BACKUPS.

Do you know the Warning Signs of Hard Drive Failure? You'll learn you what to watch for, and the scoop on Hard Drive Life Expectancy. Will your hard drive last another year? If it crashes and burns, you'll want to know about your Hard Drive Data Recovery Options. Backups are great, but Will Your Files Last a Thousand Years? (or even five years?) I also talk about the pros and cons of SSD (Solid State) and Hybrid Hard Drives, which are alternatives to the traditional "spinning magnetic platter" hard drives we've all been using since the dawn of computing. Everything You Need to Know About HARD DRIVES also has a list of Hard Drive Partitioning Myths that may surprise you, and a dozen other topics related to hard drive health, speed, mangement, and recovery.

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, and a couple of other surprises. Stay tuned!

 
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Most recent comments on "What's YOUR Backup Strategy? (I'll show you mine...)"

Posted by:

John Wafford
23 Jan 2017

Hi Bob,

As you know from my previous comments, I use XXClone to create backup clones. What program do you use to clone?


Posted by:

Ed
23 Jan 2017

I use Clickfree C6 (total clone) and the company seems out of business. Is there a similar product on the market from a reliable maker?


Posted by:

John T
23 Jan 2017

Thanks Bob, Might just be a book I could use for sure! Question in this same line of thought of back-ups. I built my PC around 4 years ago, installed Win 7 Pro OEM as the operating system. I installed a 500GB HDD. Later bought a 500GB external HDD. As my C-drive 500GB was getting pretty full, I bought and installed an internal 1TB HDD. So I am thinkg if I make a System Image backup, can I then install the image on the 1TB internal drive then swith it to my C drive? Would like info on best way to perform this also switching the OS to the newer larger drive. A note, I didi do the Win X upgrade so I do not have a DVD to install the Win X OS! Thanks


Posted by:

SharonH
23 Jan 2017

I use iDrive-both their cloud backup and also external hard drive. So that I don't forget, they are set to automatically backup. I have been very pleased with their service (had to call once because a backup kept failing. It turned out to be my fault}.


Posted by:

Skip
23 Jan 2017

On my new WD External Hard Drive, I get a notice that says "These files failed to back up" after a mirror-scheduled back-up. What is this all about? The manual does not touch on this at all. Thanks.


Posted by:

Art F
23 Jan 2017

I use the Windows 7 File Recovery Control Panel for full file backups and system image backups. This capability is included with Windows versions 7 and later. (Like you, I use Windows 10 File History for incremental backups. The Windows 7 stuff is found in the options shown to the left in File History.) What is the reason you prefer 3rd party backup software to what is included with Windows? I recall that a few years back, you encouraged readers to use these built-in Windows backup capabilities. What changed your mind?


Posted by:

Art F
23 Jan 2017

I am a little worried that reliance on automatic backups leaves me vulnerable to ransomware. If an automatically-scheduled backup occurs before I discover my files have been encrypted by ransomware, will my previous backup be overwritten by the corrupted versions of my files? That is, do these backup methods preserve more than just the most recent backup?


Posted by:

Tom B.
23 Jan 2017

I need a "Book," Bob, but not yours.
I need a ChromeBook.
The OS is automatically updated and ALL content is automatically saved to the cloud.
What could be easier?!


Posted by:

Eugene. G.
23 Jan 2017

Bob,
You are such a tease! Thank you for all you do for us mere mortals.


Posted by:

Rich H.
23 Jan 2017

The problem I see with cloud backup is that you use up your monthly data cap quickly (1TB).


Posted by:

Michael
23 Jan 2017

I am with Bob F. when he says"I am a little worried that reliance on automatic backups leaves me vulnerable to ransomware." I was happy with backups using Windows File History until ransom ware hit and locked my files and their backup.


Posted by:

John Wafford
24 Jan 2017

@ ArtF and Michael

That's one of the reasons that I do multiple backups at different times, two of them on external drives that aren't connected when I'm not backing them up. That way they can't be corrupted by Ransomware even if it encrypts everything on my active drives.


Posted by:

Roger Woody
24 Jan 2017

Bob, Why do you prefer an incremental backup rather than a differential backup system?

EDITOR'S NOTE: My understanding is that incrementals take up less space than differential backup. You also have the option to restore as of a specific day (since the full image).


Posted by:

Frit
24 Jan 2017

I use Veeam Endpoint Backup Free 1.5 for weekly incremental image-level backups to a WD Elements external hard drive. The software is on the bloaty side, but it's easy to use and gets the job done.


Posted by:

bb
24 Jan 2017

(In the vain hope that Microsoft will see this and re-instate WHS.)
My backup strategy is exceeding simple: Windows Home Server. Daily *image* backups of all attached computers in my house. WHS2011 was just $50 and when installed on any old 64-bit computer does backup for any attached computers automatically. Yes, you had to provide the server computer, but 'any old 64-bit PC' would work. One also got remote access and file sharing included, a wonderful product.
But in their infinite wisdom Microsoft has terminated WHS and suggested home users instead buy the $1,000+ Windows Small Business Server as if that were equivalent. Not!


Posted by:

errol
26 Jan 2017

It isn't clear to me if your new "backup" book includes how to do backups for Linux users or whether it is only Windows orientated.
Please clarify this so I can decide whether to purchase.


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