In order to protect your files from hard drive failures and other dangers, you need to keep a consistent, up-to-date backup. Unfortunately, most personal computer users have lackluster backup habits, and data loss is a common problem.
Media damage can occur at any time, so you should put a functional data backup plan in place as soon as you can. Hard drive backups and cloud-based backups are two especially popular strategies. Both are affordable for small businesses and private computer users, but to choose an appropriate strategy, you will need to consider your computer usage habits.
Advantages of Hard Drive Backup
Hard drive backups are a relatively inexpensive solution. You can get a large external hard drive for less than $200, and you will often have extra space available to store non-essential files. Many external hard drives also come with data backup software, which can perform incremental backups or full backups on a regular basis.
You do not need an active Internet connection to use an external hard drive for data backup, although you will need a USB or FireWire connection.
Advantages of Cloud Services
Cloud services differ from traditional online backup services in that you typically store your files online; you never need to download them directly to your computer. There is no point of failure on your end, and even if your computer's hard drive experiences a catastrophic failure, you will not permanently lose access to your data.
To use a cloud-based service, you will typically need to pay a regular fee. Most websites charge about $10 per month for personal computer users, although rates vary greatly from one provider to the next. There are several free online backup services, but most have strict file size limits. Google and Dropbox are notable examples.
The main disadvantage of a cloud service is that you need a consistent Internet connection to access your files. Costs can also become prohibitive if you need to store a large amount of data.
Choosing an Appropriate Option
To choose an effective backup option, think about how you use your computer to access key files. If you regularly edit files from different computers, an online service might make sense; with a well-managed backup service, you can easily open your files from any PC. Some services also allow you to access your files through your smartphone. Cloud services typically use stateof-the-art encryption to protect your data from unauthorized access, so security is not a major issue, but you should make sure that your service meets your compliance requirements where applicable.
Overall, cloud backup services offer better dependability and flexibility, but they are by no means the best option for every computer user. You might be more comfortable working with a hard drive backup if you want physical, network-independent access to your data. Many computer users also prefer hard drive backups for their lower overall costs, and cloud backups might not be a realistic option if you have a slow or inconsistent Internet connection.
Regardless of the option that you choose, we strongly recommend automatic backup systems over manual backup systems. Automatic backups greatly reduce the chances of user error and improve overall dependability. If you do not use automatic backups, you should follow a written schedule to keep your backups consistent.
Remember, you should never attempt to repair a damaged hard drive or recover your own files. A proper backup strategy will give you tremendous peace of mind, but if your computer fails without a backup, keep it powered off until you can speak with a qualified data recovery specialist.