Disclaimer: data protection is a never ending effort, always evolving and requiring our constant attention, this information should only be considered an overview to get you started.
Backups are essential for keeping your data protected from loss but people often don’t understand what this means. Digital devices are incredibly portable, compact, valuable and complex, making them easy to loose, steal or break. Some possible ways you could loose your data…
- Hard-drive Failure
- Data Corruption Or Malware
- Lost or Stolen
- Fire or Other Disaster
Hard-drives are precision mechanical devices and nothing with moving parts can last forever, hard drives can fail unexpectedly and in ways that might not be immediately apparent until it’s too late. A single hard drive should never be trusted to protect your data from loss.
We have many types of backups at our disposal, each with advantages and disadvantages depending on the kind of data loss you suffer. Here is a link to an exhaustive list of every type of backup terminology: http://typesofbackup.com/
Here is a brief description of the most relative terms:
Off-site backups are any backup that is moved to a location different then where the data is normally stored. This is an important aspect in protecting data loss from disaster or theft. Having backups located in the same building that just burnt down will only make matters worse.
Online Backups or Cloud backups
These backups are also inherently “Off-Site” backups and would be data that is backed up to some place on the internet. Online backups are normally moved/uploaded “off-site” automatically, making these are the most popular type of backup today. The thing about most online backups is that they don’t keep a history of your files. Meaning: if you overwrite something by mistake or erase something by mistake you might not get it back.
This type of backup is especially uncommon but can prevent some of the most frustrating types of data loss from malware. Backups that are “offline” would be data that is stored on a hard drive or other data storage device and then disconnected or powered down.
A type of malware that has been increasingly popular falls in to a sub category called “ransomware”. This type of malware will encrypt everything is can get its hands on, preventing you from accessing it in any way. The author of the ransomeware will claim that once you pay them they will provide you with the decryption key (password). Depending on the scope of the infection and what infected systems have access to or are connected to, it’s actually possible that this ransomeware could encrypt your backups, if they aren’t connected then they can’t be infected or encrypted.
My first recommendation for a personal computer is to use a cloud backup solution. You might already have some free cloud storage that comes with your Apple, Google or Microsoft account anyway. The best thing to do will be to pick a service from a provider you already use, familiarize yourself and get in the habit of storing your files in the appropriate folder for that service.
Google Drive – 15GB Free (Pooled With Gmail)
Microsoft One Drive – 15GB Free
Apple iCloud – 5GB Free
Another couple options with free storage:
Dropbox – 2GB Free
Box – 10GB Free
In order to completey protect your data you need to understand how the service you use works. If it doesn’t keep a history of your files you should consider making manual off-line backups based on you use habits.