Protect Your Data: Backing Up Files

Why It's Smart to Back Up Your Data

It is not a matter of if a computer's hard drive will fail, it is a matter of when. If the only copy of your data lives in your laptop's single hard drive, you will eventually lose it. Eventually the device will get worn out, jostled just a little too much, or simply give up the ghost. It could happen years from now, next week, or right before a big paper is due. Luckily, the solution to protecting your data from loss like this is quite simple: keep multiple copies of your files in multiple locations. If you don't head this advice, you will eventually be faced with losing everything.

How and Where to Back Up Your Data

WCTS recommends that individuals take special care to back up critical files like papers in addition to backing up everything on their system's hard drive. The following links detail methods of protecting your data in both on and off-site locations:

Notes to Keep in Mind

Regardless of how or where you choose to back-up your data, keep these notes in mind.

  • Save early. Don't wait until next week to start backing-up your data. Take a little time now to set up your backups, and save yourself a massive amount of potential grief later.
  • Save often. A month-old backup may be better than nothing, but it won't save you much grief. A week-old backup is pretty good, but a lot can happen in a week. A day-old backup means that, at most, you'd lose a day's worth of work should the worst happen. The more up-to-date your backups are, the better.
  • Automate. Make your computer do as much of the work for you as possible. If you have to perform a backup yourself, you will likely forget at some point. This is when Murphy's Law will manifest. The less your backup procedures rely on you do something yourself, the better.
  • Test your backup. A corrupted backup is just as useless as no backup at all. Periodically check your backups to make sure file corruption isn't sneaking into your safety net.
  • More backups are better than fewer backups. Don't place all your trust in a single backup system. Back-up your files to multiple locations. If your hard drive dies and your main backup fails, make sure you have a secondary fall-back for at least your critical data. You should never, ever keep all of your eggs in one basket. Depending on your budget, the amount of data you have, and other details specific to you and your system, not all of these points may be possible. But the more that you are able to do, the safer your data will be.