Remember that scene in Sex and the City when Carrie – and her computer – has a meltdown and she loses all her data? Yup, that can actually happen.
Losing all your data, whether on your website or your computer, is not something any of us want to experience. Although you may not be able to prevent your computer from crashing or your website from being hacked, you can make sure that your data is safeguarded so that you don’t lose it completely. Have you ever modified a photo and forgot to save the original? Having a backup can help with that, too.
This month’s task should take you less than two hours, once you have all the proper equipment and tools. However, the actual backup time will vary depending on how much data you have.
- Decide what you need to back up. You probably don’t need to back up every last byte on your computer, but you will want to back up your important work files, email, photos, videos, music, cat memes, etc. – basically anything that would encumber your work or leave a little hole in your heart if you lost it. Determine how much space you will need for all of this data and write it down. You’ll need that number for the next steps. If you decide to backup your entire computer (which I do recommend), you’ll need about twice the space as your computer’s capacity, just to be safe.
- Back up locally. Having your backup on hand is the easiest way to retrieve data should you lose it, or even accidentally delete it. Mac has made it easy for its users to back up locally with Time Machine, a program that comes installed and ready to go on all new Macs. All you need to do is keep an external hard drive connected to your computer, set up Time Machine once, and voilà! The Mac will do the rest for you, backing up your data without you having to even think about it. From the Mac website:Time Machine automatically backs up your entire Mac, including system files, applications, accounts, preferences, email messages, music, photos, movies, and documents. But what makes Time Machine different from other backup applications is that it not only keeps a spare copy of every file, it remembers how your system looked on any given day – so you can revisit your Mac as it appeared in the past.
PC users can use the backup function that comes with their machine. Here’s how to do that, per DigitalTrends.com:
Open the Start Menu, type “backup” into the search box and choose “Backup and Restore” from the results. In the window that pops up, click on the “Set Up Backup button,” select the drive that you just plugged in and click Next until you reach the final window. On the last window, click “Save Settings and Run Backup.”
It might take several hours the first time you run your backup, so make sure you don’t have to unplug or move your computer during that time, just in case.
You can buy a 1TB (terabyte) hard drive for under $100. Compare that to the $400+ you’ll pay some computer geek to maybe recover your data should your computer crash. I’ve been using a WD My Passport for several years and have had no problems.
- Back up remotely. A local backup is convenient for daily mishaps and hard drive crashes, but you really – and I mean really – need to back up remotely as well. What if someone broke into your home and stole your computer? A thief isn’t going to unplug your external hard drive and leave it behind as he dashes out the door. A remote backup also protects your data in case of a disaster such as a fire, flood, or visiting nieces and nephews. Sure, it will take a while to download your data but not as long as it did to upload, and it’s far better than losing your data altogether. There are several cloud-based options for backup. I’ve been using Mozy for several years and have had few problems. However, I am now considering a jump to Carbonite purely based on price ($10/month for 125GB of space versus Carbonite’s $60/year for unlimited — unlimited!). The fact it took me three days to back up my original first upload is one of the things keeping me from making the leap. Of course, there’s always iCloud, which is easy to set up seamlessly between all your devices, but $100/year for 50GB is like giving Apple a kidney.
- Back up your website. If you’re lucky, you might be able to contact your developer for a copy of your site if it gets hacked. But if you’ve made lots of changes to the site (more blog posts, tweaks to the layout, etc.) since it was originally launched or if your developer no longer has the data (or wants to charge you for it, which happens more often than you might realize), you’re out of luck. Most web hosting companies, including Bluehost, offer some form of backup free, as well as more robust options for a fee. If you’re on WordPress, I recommend UpDraft Plus for backups, which allows you to save your data to numerous locations, including Dropbox. Now, it’s important to remember to save your backup somewhere other than where the original is stored. Recently I had a developer tell me he had set up a backup for our client — only to discover that the backup was being saved in the same directory as the original site. That’s the equivalent of keeping the copy of your passport folded inside the real thing when you’re traveling: If you lose one, you’re going to lose the other.
Thar ya have it. Honestly, this is the single most important New Year’s resolution you can do for your data. So get moving!