Why You Should Make Backups and Where You Should Keep Them

Illustration of someone backing up her phone data to the cloud.

It is much easier to lose important data than you think. The most common ways to lose data include user mistakes, hardware failure, device theft or loss, and malware infection. Ransomware attacks and computer hacking are also a significant risk to files on your devices.

The only way to protect your important files from all these risks is to backup your data often. Backing up data involves creating copies of your files and storing them on a hard drive, external storage device or cloud backup service. Data backups allow you to restore important files quickly in case the original data on your devices is lost or becomes corrupted.

Where to keep your backups

When it comes to where you backup data to, you can choose between your device’s hard drive, removable data storage device, and cloud storage service. Each of these options has its own advantages and disadvantages.

Local hard drive

The most convenient backup destination is the hard drive on your device. You can create a separate partition on the drive and keep the backups there. The biggest drawback of backing up data to the local hard drive is that it will not protect you in case of complete hard drive failure, malware infection, or if your device is lost or stolen.

Removable data storage device

Backing up your files to a removable data storage device such as an external hard drive or USB memory stick keeps your data secure even if the device on which the original data is stored fails or is lost. Removable data storage devices can keep a lot of data and are very reliable as long as you encrypt them. They are also easier to use, faster and cheaper than remote backup options.

However, these data storage devices can malfunction and are vulnerable to natural calamities such as flooding and fire. Malware can infect these devices along with your primary drive. They can also be lost or stolen.

Cloud storage service

Cloud storage services are an increasingly common destination for data backups. Most cloud storage services provide a lot of storage space and encrypt data. With backups stored in the cloud, you can access and manage your data anytime on any connected device.

Having your data backed up in a secure distant location gives you a peace of mind and ensures that your data is safe and recoverable. Besides, cloud backup services often allow you to save multiple versions of your file, thus giving you an opportunity to roll files back to earlier versions. Cloud services are, however, slower and often more expensive than local backup options. Besides, you cannot access data in the cloud without internet access.

When choosing a cloud storage service, consider options that offer zero-knowledge encrypted storage. This means that even the company that stores your backups has no way of viewing your files. There are free options available in both conventional and zero-knowledge encrypted cloud storage.

Whichever cloud service you go with, make sure that you secure your account with a strong and unique password and enable two-factor authentication.

The 3-2-1 rule for important data backup

You might have files that are particularly important to you. It might be a good idea to backup these files in more than one place. To secure the particularly sensitive, confidential or valuable data, consider following the 3-2-1 rule for backup: always keep three copies of your data, two on different local devices and one in a remote location.

In practice, this means having the original data on your device, a backup on a removable data storage device, and another one on a cloud backup service. This system guarantees that you will keep your data even in the (highly unlikely) case that you lose two copies of it at the same time.