Why Backup? Here Are 9 Good Reasons
It's a great question... why should you bother to make backups? It's especially understandable if you've never experienced any sort of data loss. But I've got a list of NINE reasons, some of which may surprise you. Read on for that list, and ANSWERS to some of the best questions I've received about backups...
Do I Really Need to Back Up My Files?
I wrote the first edition of my ebook Everything You Need to Know About BACKUPS in 2010 because I'm passionate about making sure that important files -- programs, documents, emails, contacts, music, photos, and financial records -- are NEVER lost due to a data disaster.
My goal was (and is) to teach people how to make backups easily, inexpensively, and automatically.
And I'm excited because I believe that my plain English explanations and instructions will guide both advanced users and even the most non-technical readers to success with backups, and trigger a "Wow, that was easier than I thought!" response when they're done.
Over the past seven years, I've received some really great questions about backups from AskBob readers. I'm going to answer some of those questions here, but first, let's get into my list of reasons why you need to make backups.
NINE Good Reasons for Backups
1) Hard drives don't last forever. -- Studies on hard drive life expectancy show that 22% of hard drives will fail in the first four years, due to factory defects, random failures, and parts that wear out. Failures due to factory defects tend to happen in the first 18 months of service. How old is your hard drive, and how lucky do you feel?
2) Viruses, power surges, and natural disasters happen. -- Ransomware is spreading like wildfire online. It will lock all your files, and permanently delete them if you don't pay a hefty ransom within a few days. Power surges can scramble data or zap files. Fires, floods and F5 tornados can tear the stuffing right out of your shiny gadget.
3) Stuff gets lost or stolen. -- Even the most reliable hardware and top-notch virus protection won't help if your laptop, tablet or smartphone falls into unfriendly hands. Only a backup will save your bacon.
4) Mobile gadgets break or get wet. -- Have you ever dropped your mobile phone in a dirty slush puddle, or treated it to a wash/spin/dry joyride? I have. Have you ever dropped your laptop, watched it fall in slow motion, hoping that it will survive the fall? Been there, too.
5) Passwords get lost. -- You followed the advice of the experts to use unique, secure passwords for your computer and your online accounts. But then you forgot... was it "2Much-L0ve4U" or "2Much-4U-2Love"? Dang it!
6) Accounts are compromised or frozen. -- Your password was "PASSWORD" and you're surprised you got hacked? Sometimes for no discernable reason, people get locked out of their Gmail, Yahoo, AOL, Facebook or other online accounts. Was it a software glitch, a denial of service attack, or did a hacker gain access to your account? You may never know. And without a backup, you may never again see your saved emails, contacts or files.
7) Data breaches are becoming commonplace. -- Every week, it seems there's another high-profile data breach, resulting in millions of usernames, passwords and other critical data becoming public. Yahoo, Target, Chase Bank, American Express, Home Depot, Apple, Sony... who's next, and how will it affect you?
8) Human error. -- None of us are immune to the occasional finger fumble, brain freeze, or senior moment. Files or folders may be accidentally deleted, and sometimes you don't notice until it's too late.
9) Incorrrect assumptions. -- I've learned that some people just assume that their computer is automatically making backups. If you didn't do something to make it happen, it's not happening. And many users who have some sort of backup routine are not backing up the right files, or all the ones that need protection.
Your Backup Questions Answered
I've received hundreds of questions about backups from AskBob readers. I can't answer all of them here, but I'll highlight some of the most interesting and common ones below:
Q: "Which free backup software do you recommend? Also, which paid one do you recommend, as NORTON and ACRONIS are surprisingly problematic?"
A: My current favorite is Macrium Reflect. There's a free version which is quite good, and a paid version that adds some extra features I like. Windows 7 includes the Backup and Restore feature, but I find it a bit clunky. If you have Windows 10, the File History feature is a really good option. I used Acronis True Image (paid software) for years, but the recent versions have become bloated and buggy. Lots of people tell me they like Easeus Todo Backup and AOMEI Backupper (both free) but I've not used either one enough to recommend them.
Q: "What exactly is 'The Cloud,' and how safe is it?"
A: Cloud storage or cloud backup refers to files that are stored on an Internet website (sometimes called a server) instead of your computer's hard drive or other local storage. The term "cloud" is used to create the impression of a giant hard drive in the sky, which provides convenient access to files that reside on the Internet. Examples of cloud storage providers are Google Drive, Dropbox, Mozy and Carbonite.
I maintain that data stored in the cloud is MUCH safer than files stored on a local hard drive. Do you use 256-bit encryption for your sensitive files at home? Do you have a staff of highly-trained professionals constantly monitoring your computer for break-in attempts? How about strong physical security that includes gated perimeter access, 24x7 on-site security guards, and security cameras? Do you have a fire detection and suppression system, backup power, and a disaster recovery plan in the event of hurricane, flood or earthquake? You can bet your cloud storage provider has all that and more in place to safeguard your data. It's probably much easier for the NSA to hack into your home computer than to get into any one of these cloud servers. Some people point to all the high-profile breaches reported in the news, but it's important to note that none of those compromised companies were cloud service providers, who focus on data security above all else.
Q: "What is the difference between full system and data backup? What is the difference between what *should* be backed up and what *must* be backed up?"
A: In a nutshell, a full system backup (or image backup) includes everything on your hard drive -- the operating system, program files, and your personal files. A data backup usually refers to a backup that only includes personal files such as documents, spreadsheets, music, photos, etc. That's better than no backup at all, but my recommendation is to make regular image backups, followed up with a series of "incremental backups" that catch any changes since the full image backup.
Q: "If I get hit with ransomware or other malware, will that also affect the backups on my external hard drive, thus making recovery impossible?"
A: Yes, that can happen. That's why I recommend backing up your backup. One way is to have two external drives, which you swap out weekly or monthly. That's unfortunately a manual process, but I discuss other options in my ebook.
I've heard lots of reasons for not doing backups. The most common one is "I'll do nothing and HOPE for the best." But there's a problem with that. (Actually 9 problems, see above.) HOPE is the strategy of the fearful, the uninformed, and the procrastinator. In this case, "doing nothing" is almost certain to lead to disaster. BUT... if you knew you could protect ALL your information on ALL your devices with little or no expense, and make it happen automatically, wouldn't that be great? Wouldn't it be awesome to have CONFIDENCE instead of HOPE?
Other people say "Backups are too complicated or time consuming." That might have been true 10 or 15 years ago. My first backup system used a tape drive that took forever to run, was prone to error, and was hard to set up. After that, I tried making backups on diskettes, CDs and DVDs. That was a hassle, and I never remembered to do it as often as I should have. But today we have "plug and play" devices that will start making automatic backups as soon as you plug them into your computer. Getting started with an online backup service is almost as easy, and both options can be configured to run at night, or when your computer is idle.
Another one I hear often is "Backups are too expensive." As I mentioned earlier, there are some really good free backup software options, and some clever ways to access gobs of free online storage. Don't trust your data in the cloud? A 500 gigabyte external hard drive costs less than $50 now. Still too expensive? How about a 128GB USB flash drive for about $25?
Let's Talk About This...
I want to hear from you about backups! If you're already doing regular backups, strut your stuff. Post a comment below and tell me about your personal backup strategy. Are you backing up everything, including social media, your cloud storage, and mobile devices?
If you're not, or you have questions about backups, you'll find practical help and answers in my ebook Everything You Need to Know About BACKUPS (5th Edition). Please take 7 minutes and read the letter I've prepared for you, which explains what's in the ebook, and how you can get up and running with your own backup regimen today. Thanks!
This article was posted by Bob Rankin on 21 Jun 2017
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Article information: AskBobRankin -- Why Backup? Here Are 9 Good Reasons (Posted: 21 Jun 2017)
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